If you go down in the woods today…

12th January 2012

It was the first time this year in our Oxford woodland so it was interesting to see what was out and about.

Lots of Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria everywhere. This is our only edible member of the buttercup family and even the leaves of this contain the same chemical that’s in other buttercups called ranunculin which is converted to protoanemonin when chewed or macerated. Too much can cause nausea and vomiting and even paralysis, and most of the buttercup family contain so much that it will burn your mouth if you eat them. The amount in Lesser Celandine is unlikely to cause any problems especially at this time of year, the levels increase when the plant starts to flower, so probably not recommended to have too many leaves later in the year. We will revisit Lesser Celandine in late spring.

At the woodland edge there were lots of last year’s Hogweed  Heracleum sphondylium stems and quite a few had a few seeds clinging on to the umbel skeletons. Another member of the same family found in damper areas of the woods is Wild Angelica  Angelica sylvestris this could also be located by the dead remains of last years plants. These too, had a few seeds still attached.

Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris

On the woodland floor there was lots of Lords and Ladies or Cuckoo Pint Arum maculatum coming through. Although the starchy root of this plant has been used as a food in the past it contains large amounts of oxalic acid and despite lots of processing this is unlikely to be completely removed. When very young the arrow shaped leaves could be mistaken for Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa  and although the two plants generally grow in different habitats they can occasionally occur together so caution is required.

Lords and Ladies Arum maculatum

Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis


At first glance this looks like it could be Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca, but alas no, this is Barren Strawberry  Potentilla sterilis and produces no fruit of any significance, amongst other distinguishing features the leaves are generally smaller and have a more rounded end than Wild Strawberry.


Lots of young Cleaver Gallium aparine shoots everywhere, many having just germinated as they still had their dicotyledons (first leaves) present and would be great eaten raw.

On bare patches of mud in the tracks there was Hairy Bittercress Cardamine hirsuta, a lovely peppery salad plant at this time of year.  Lots of Bush Vetch Vicia sepium around still, but couldn’t find any fresh young shoots. Also found a couple of Scarlet Elfcups Sarcoscypha austriaca (sorry no picture) which are also edible if not particularly tasty.


Hairy Bittercress Cardamine hirsuta

Not bad for a cold January day.

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