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Alexanders give foxes a perfect place to hide

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 06, 2012

A peacock butterfly lands on its target, attracted by the dazzling    mauve colour

A peacock butterfly lands on its target, attracted by the dazzling mauve colour

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Fox watching us from a stand of Alexanders. The flowers are over now but the smooth, hollow, furrowed stems stand strong and firm at about a metre tall.

It is a plant long naturalised in the British Isles and common in the Westcountry in hedgerows and on waste ground usually not far from the sea. It was once known as Alexandrian Parsley, and came from that part of the north African coast around Alexandria.

The leaves have an unusual myrrh-like flavour, good in broths and stews and were also eaten raw in salads. They were also used, like fennel, to make a sauce to accompany fish. The young shoots and tops of the fleshy roots were blanched and boiled.

Alexanders blooms in springtime, the greenish-yellow flowers borne in large rounded umbels and followed by broad black seeds with prominent ridges. When the seeds are ripe they have a spicy, aromatic scent.

The fox backed away and disappeared. It may well have an earth hidden by the Alexanders and other vegetation for the old Devon hedge is on a typical earth bank, broad and ideal for a fox to dig itself a den.

Three peacock butterflies at creeping thistle. The mauve flowers have a musky, honey scent like buddleia and this makes them particularly attractive to butterflies.

Thistles growing by a building protects it from lightning and were always held sacred to Thor. Thistle-down was collected by folk as a filler for pillows and cushions, usually with dried chamomile and wormwood leaves.

Lovely plant, wormwood, used in the manufacture of a tonic beer. An old rhyme tells us: Where chamber is swept and wormwood is strowne, No flea for his life, abide to be known.

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