Saturday, 2 June 2012

Flowering now: Hoary Cress


Hoary cress around the pumping station

The white flowered umbels of this pepperwort at the entrance to the wharf at Seething Wells are that of hoary cress, Lepidium draba (aka Cardaria draba) and also known as Thanet cress, which is a deep-rooted, perennial mustard. This plant is becoming increasingly common on waste ground, roadsides and field borders in England and Wales. It arrived in this country from Europe at Thanet in Kent and was first recorded after the Napoleonic Wars. Sick soldiers were bought to Ramsgate on mattresses stuffed with hay, later given to a Thanet Farmer, who ploughed them into his fields as manure. The cress appeared in great quantity spreading over the south coast and via wharf sites. It is prevalent in East London wherever ‘sailors shook out their mattresses’. Plants are a frequent link to our trading past and this is a fine example. In our borough the plant is recorded at Elmbridge Meadows, Holy Cross School, Hogsmill Sewage Works and along the wall of Kingston Cemetery. I used to feel  sad when the council sprayed the ‘weeds’ along Bonner Hill Road each April/May, as I thought the spring sprays would never return. But as a  deep-rooted plant it persists to remind of this story. 

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