I used to be able to recognise and name most of the wayside flowers. As part of my A Level Botany course we had to present a collection of pressed and dried flowers to the external examiner for an intensive viva. I’m talking of 60 years ago, I suspect the modern day student will not of heard of external examiners and vivas. Being the sad git that I am, I still have my folder of dried flowers, about 200 species all classified and labelled precisely. I may fish them out and show you my diligence.
Time passes by and one’s interests widen, but I have always tried to put a name to plants as I pass by, but I admit to becoming a bit rusty on those once familiar names. At my age one starts to worry about dementia but all my friends struggle too. Annoyingly that elusive name will often surface at a later time. Anyhow, to brush up on my plant recognition skills I decided to upload an app onto my phone that would help me on those I had forgotten. I know I’m behind the times with this technology.
There were several to choose from, and eventually I chose one. I pointed it at an Ox Eye Daisy and it only told me that it was from the Asteraceae (daisy) family. That didn’t seem to be good enough, so I tried a few more. None were particularly accurate or quick to respond, maybe it’s my ageing Android phone. I searched ‘best plant apps’ and eventually settled on iNaturalist. Time to put it to the test.
A local walk I often do involves a pleasant almost traffic free lane. They call it Mile Lane despite the fact that it only measures half a mile. My mission today was to try and photograph and identify every flower seen on this short rural stretch of Lancashire. Last time I was out I was solely on the trail of the Bee Orchid – today I would be content with a Thistle or Dandelion.
That half mile took me far longer than usual as I searched the verges and hedges for as many plants as possible. Rather disappointedly I only counted 25 different species. (Grasses weren’t included, that would have been a step too far.) I recognised the majority of them but was stumped by one which my app told me was a Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. I wasn’t aware of its pungent smell, next time I come across it I’ll check that out. Its common name suggests it was used for dressing wounds, no doubt having some antiseptic properties.
I was not impressed with the iNaturalist. It took a long time to register the plant and often gave a rather vague identification. I admit my phone is not the best for photography which may have a bearing on the results. If any of you have a suggestion for a favourite plant identification app I would be very grateful for your advice, I’ll try it out on a different lane.