Winter and Spring

20th February 2013

Continuing yesterday’ s theme of whether it is still winter or spring, this little plant does nothing to resolve the issue.

Spring Beauty Claytonia perfoliata
Its English name is Spring Beauty but its French name translates as Winter Purslane, Claytonia perfoliata appears like this in late winter as a rosette of long stalked, fleshy, oval pointed leaves. Later in the year, May-July when it flowers it is quite easy to identify as the top two leaves on the flower stem are stalk-less and fuse forming what looks like a saucer on the top of the stem with the delicate little white flowers sat in the middle.

The plant is not native to this country, but is a relatively recent introduction from north America. It originates along the western side of north America from Alaska down to California particularly in coastal and mountainous areas.  It is sometimes known as Miner’s Lettuce in its homeland as it was eaten by the gold miners during the gold rush to prevent scurvy.  In Europe it has escaped from gardens and can be found in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland.  It can be quite prolific in open, sandy areas and in the UK it is commonest in the south east and the midlands but can be found sporadically elsewhere.

In its native, western north America the roots were supposedly eaten by several Native American tribes but it is possible that this is more likely referring to the closely related Narrow-leaved Spring Beauty C. lanceolata which  is also known as “Fairy Spuds” in Canada.

Generally it is the leaves that are eaten, they are succulent and mild tasting and can be used raw in salads making a good accompaniment to delicate foods like seafood and chicken.  As the plants mature the leaves can become tough and are best cooked like spinach, which they resemble in flavour.


Kev Palmer


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