9th April 2021 – Wood-rushes in Wandsworth

I haven’t missed pubs, but botanizing in company again feels like an exceptional treat. Today I’m going on a plant hunt in Wandsworth Cemetery with Roy Vickery and a group from the South London Botanical Society.

I meet first with Sarah Webley on her patch, Wandsworth Common. This area is new to me and hadn’t really pictured the Common like this, heaving with families enjoying the sun. Sarah points out the Swamp Cypresses on the edge of a pond. These are deciduous conifers with distinctive bark and new leaf shoots just showing. Their knobbly roots – pneumatophores – on the edge of the pond are a striking adaptation to wet habitats like the Florida Everglades where they are common.

Swamp Cypress – new leaf growth
Swamp Cypress – distinctive bark

We also find Greater Stitchwort and Cuckooflower flowering before we realise it’s time to set off if we’re not going to be late to the Cemetery.

Greater Stitchwort

Superficially Wandsworth Cemetery might not look particularly exciting from a plant perspective but in fact the combination of gravelly grave plots, longer sward and lightly managed grass banks provide a range of habitats. Having some time to compare speedwells is a pleasure, with Common Field, Wall and Ivy-leaved all in flower here. There’s also a nice rosette of Creeping Cinquefoil on the gravel and Coltsfoot growing on a bank.

Common Field Speedwell
Wall Speedwell
Creeping Cinquefoil

New to me and not yet in flower are Greek Dock, Hoary Cress – both introduced – and Parsley Piert.

Greek Dock
Hoary Cress
Parsley Piert

Meadow Foxtail grass and Annual Meadow-grass are both in flower and Barren Brome’s nearly there. But my absolute favourite – and I apologise to my companions having gone on about it at length – are the carpets of Field Wood-rush. There’s just something so wonderfully elegant about those little flower heads.

Meadow Foxtail
Barren Brome
Field Wood-rush

Of course it would be nice to be back in pubs, particularly playing with the ceilidh band, but in the meantime I’ll settle for the joy of plant hunting in company.


  1. Fascinating selection of plants, thank you..

  2. Sarah Webley · · Reply

    I enjoyed the day too and learned a lot from you – thanks!
    I have also bought the Harrap book now so will try to spend a bit more time looking at some of these plants.

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