Red Bartsia

red bartsiaI couldn’t see much of the flowers of red bartsia, which poke their purplish-red lips out of the calyxes which are arranged facing the same way along the stem. Perhaps of the resemblance flower spike to a row of pointed teeth is why the plant acquired a reputation as a herbal remedy for tootache. Carl Linnaeus gave it the Latin name, Odontites vernaOdontites was a name that Pliny gave to a plant that was said to be good for treating toothache.

Smalltoothcombia Domestica, from Edward Lear's Nonsense Botany.
Smalltoothcombia Domestica, from Edward Lear’s Nonsense Botany.

The racemes (toothbrush-like arrangements) of the flowers led to this familiar weed’s old Yorkshire name of cock’s comb.

Red bartsia is a member of the Figwort family and, like its relative the yellow rattle, it is semi-parasitic on the roots of grasses.

Bartsia was named by Linnaeus in memory of his friend, the German physician and botanist Johann Bartsch who died aged 29 in Suriname in 1738.

The Bittern Hide

View from the Bittern HideThe path to the northern end of the RSPB Old Moor reserve is closed at the moment to minimise disturbance to the resident bitterns so your best view of the reedbeds is from the Bittern Hide.

bullockstufted vetchGrazing bullocks help keep the grassy margins of the lagoons open. This afternoon they’ve congregated to chew the cud on the banking in the corner by a field gate which is sufficiently exposed to discourage flies.

great willowherbBut the breeze and the occasional showers have made it difficult to draw plants in any detail today.

The great willowherb was growing by a bridge over a drainage ditch while the tufted vetch was climbing amongst the dried grass to a height of three feet with the aid of tendrils at the end of its leaves.


willow9.47 a.m.; A skein of forty Canada geese approach, honking as they go, from the north-west. The lead bird, followed by the rest of the chevron, has to make a considerable effort to climb to clear the power lines above me.

Grey willow, Salix cinerea, grows in damp acid soils, often, has here near ponds. It has a low spreading habit. A typical grey willow leaf tapers gradually from near the tip towards the base. The goat willow which you can find in similar habitats typically has a more rounded leaf.