Brassica bug on Jack by the Hedge

Map of the Down

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Wildflowers and other flowering plants

Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the many flowers and shrubs to be found growing at Magog Down. Most of these articles include lovely descriptions and history about the plants, written for us over the years by plant pathologist David Yarham. Some articles have been updated recently with new photos of the plants thriving thanks to our Rangers' careful management.

We welcome visitors' photos to help enrich our website, so if you have any you'd like to submit, do send them along to photos 'at' magogtrust.org.uk. Perhaps you've spotted a wildflower that is not yet featured here?

Flowers and Shrubs at Magog Down prev  :  next

Dogwood - Thelycrania (= Cornus) sanguinea

The Dogwood shrub bursts into colour in the colder months. The leaves redden in autumn alongside clusters of shiny black berries.  Where the shrubs are situated in the sun the twigs are a vibrant deep red, but are lime green in the shade.

dogwood_composite_453Photos by Claire Beale, November 2019


David Yarham wrote about this plant:

A common shrub of nutrient-rich dogwood_238chalkland in Southern Britain, dogwood is one of the native plants which have been reintroduced onto Magog Down. It is a "shrub for all seasons", producing clusters of four-petalled white flowers in summer ("When the Dogwood flowers appear", says an old rhyme, "frost will not again appear"), claret-red autumn foliage, and branches which bring a warm reddish tinge to the bleak days of winter.

Dogwood's pea-sizes black berries are attractive to the eye but not to the palate. "We for the most part call it the Dogge berry tree, because the berries are not fit to be eaten, or given to a dogge", so said John Parkinson in Theatricum Botanicum (1640). Others have produced more flattering etymologies for the shrub's common name, one suggestion being that it comes from a decoction of the leaves having been used for washing mangy dogs. It has also been claimed that a shrub of this genus (perhaps the American T. sericea) was once used to treat hydrophobia caused by the bites of rabid dogs. But perhaps the most likely derivation of the name is that it is a corruption of "dagwood" - "dag" (as in "dagger") being an old word for the butchers' skewers for which the shrub's very hard wood was once much valued. Other uses included arrows, ram-rods, mill-cogs, pestles, and wedges with which to rive softer woods (and, in parts of the West Country, small crosses which were carried to ward off witchcraft!). Charcoal made from dogwood was used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Given the arrows, ram-rods and gunpowder, not to metion the autumn leaves and winter twigs, the specific epithet "sanguinea" (= "blood red") seems most appropriate!

If you want to be certain that a particular bush really is dogwood, take the base and apex of a leaf between your fingers and thumbs and gently pull the leaf apart. The leaf blade will fracture very neatly across the middle, if you then release one half, it won't fall to the ground but will hang suspended on the very fine vascular strands which will have stretched, but not broken, as the leaf lamina fractured. To the casual observer the leaf-half appears to be hanging, as if by magic, in mid air. I can never pass a dogwood bush without amusing myself with this little conjuring trick - but then, "little things please little minds!"

February 1999


 

See also...

Report of the visit from Cambridge Natural History Society in August 2017


News about a visit by the local branch of Butterfly Conservation charity taking place in August 2016


News about the very special area of Colin's Bank, published in February 2015

Pasque Flower

One of our Friends sent us this beautiful picture of some Pasque Flowers taken in amongst the Cowslips in May 2016.pasqueflower_jb_may2016_crop_453

Photo by Jill Butler