The bobbles of hooked seeds of wood avens are spreading out over the pavement at the end of our drive. My guess is that fifteen or twenty years ago it originally established itself from a seed carried here attached to the coat of a dog returning from a walk in Coxley woods.
It’s made itself at home at the edge of the spreading ivy beneath our rowan, the sort of shady place on fertile soil that this plant prefers. There is now so much of it that many of the seeds must be making the reverse journey back into the woods as dogs pass by each morning.
It’s a member of the rose family with a five-petalled yellow flower with five sepals. It’s lower leaves remind me of nettle but the upper leaves that I’ve drawn here are three-lobed.
Also known a herb bennet, which, according to Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica, comes from the medieval Latin ‘herba benedicta’, ‘the blessed herb’;
‘Its root has a spicy clove smell and was widely used in herbal medicine.’
Its Latin name is Geum urbanum. Geum was the name of a herb mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. It might derive from ‘geuo’, the Greek meaning ‘to taste’, referring to those aromatic roots. ‘Urbanum’ means ‘of the town’.
Pliny the Elder died on 25 August 79 A.D. at Pompeii. A quote attributed to his nephew and heir Pliny the Younger opens the film Pompeii;
‘You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore’
I thought that Pliny the Elder might get a walk on part during the movie. If he did, I missed it.
Pompeii is an epic best enjoyed in 3D and surround-sound but I could have happily spent the time taking a leisurely tour through its impressively reconstructed street food shops, villas and temples of Pompeii and missed out on the gladiatorial combat and eruption, impressive as they were. Perhaps we could have a prequel; A Short Tour of Pompeii with Pliny the Elder.