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MORE ALIENS M . N . SANFORD

The long hot summer of 1989 favoured several plants from warmer climates. Two records of an unusual Pokeweed, Phytolacca clavigera W. W. Smith were m a d e this year in the Felixstowe area. I discovered a group of plants in a donkey m e a d o w in Falkenham whilst on fieldwork, and Mrs. M. Lake sent me photographs of a Single plant that had appeared in her garden in Felixstowe, these are the second and third records from Suffolk; the first was from Reydon (TM47) found by Peter Lawson in 1982 and determined by Eric Clement. This attractive alien from Asia always has long, erect spikes of purple/pink flowers; other members of the genus usually have white, greenish-white or cream flowers, sometimes turning pinkish after flowering. Like other Pokeweeds, the flowers are followed by succulent purple/black berries which are attractive to birds. Bird-sown plants are typically found below bushes or at the foot of fences on which they perch. Most previous Pokeweed records from Suffolk have been assigned to the North American P. americana L., but recent work by Eric Clement suggests they probably belong to P. acinosa Roxb. agg., an Asian group containing P. esculenta Van H o u t t e and P. latbenia ( B u c h . - H a m . ) H . Walt. Pokeweeds are occasionally grown in gardens but care should be taken to avoid children eating the attractive, but poisonous berries. Two u n c o m m o n Pigweeds, members of the genus Amaranthus, were found as arable weeds. T h e deep red infloresence of 'Love Lies Bleeding', a colour form of A. caudatus L. is perhaps the best known m e m b e r of the genus. It is another complex group requiring close examination to identify to species level. Specimens of the Green Pigweed, A. hybridus L. were found by Mrs. J. Ryland in a Beet field near Rendlesham and at Hadleigh the c o m m o n e r / 1 . retroflexus L. was found with Sidaspinosa L. - another tropical introduction. At Ramsholt Enid H y d e found many plants o M . blitoides S. Watson, a scarce introduction. The weather also aided the germination of other tender species. The unpopulär Thorn Apple or Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium L. has appeared at several places in the County. This bushy annual has strongsmelling lobed leaves and large, white or lilac, tubulär flowers. T h e prickly fruits split into four valves when ripe releasing a mass of black seeds. All parts of the plant are highly poisonous and it should be handled with care. Several plants have appeared in Ipswich this year including a fine crop in the Museum garden where digging has turned up long dormant seeds from plants last seen there in the hot summer of 1976. Several grasses f r o m warmer climates, probably resulting from bird-seed were also found. Bristle-grasses (Setaria sp.), Millets (Panicum sp.) and other large seeded grasses are common constituents of bird mixes which germinate easily in hot weather. They sometimes appear in cracks in pavements where temperatures may be higher than open soils. Lack of soil

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 26 (1990)


MORE A L I E N S

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often results in such plants being stunted making identification more difficult. Even in warm years many alien species do not germinate until mid-summer and may not come into flower until September or October; they are usually killed off by the first winter frosts. Late autumn is therefore one of the best times to look for such plants. If it is not possible to get an expert to examine the plants in situ then herbarium specimens, including flowers and fruits if present, should be collected. If the predictions about global warming are correct we can expect more alien species to Start appearing. Invasive species like the Hottentot Fig, Carpobrotus edulis (L.) N. E. Br., and other succulent species, which at present are limited in their spread to frost-free areas, may gain a foothold further north. O t h e r species at present only found as uncommon casuals may, with increased temperatures, be able to compete more effectively with our native flora. Martin N. Sanford, Suffolk Biological Records Centre, Ipswich M u s e u m , High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3 Q H

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 26 (1990)


Plate 6: Pokeweed. Phytnlacca clavinera

an

allractive Asiatic allen growjng in a meadow al Falkcnham (P 78). (Photo: Martin N Sanford)


Plate 5: The hol summer of 1989 encouraged the germination of seeds of Thorn Apple. Darum stramcmium a highly poisonous alien (p. 78). (Phoio: Francis W. Simpson)

More aliens  

Sanford, M. N.

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