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Nature Happenings #10
An early summer Nature Happenings round up!
Hello, Emma here! It’s been a little while since I’ve written a Nature Happenings post. Not, of course because Nature was not happening but because life has been chaotic and thus time has been short. With that in mind, this edition will include a round up of some of the things I’ve seen and collected in the last few weeks. But before that, a little housekeeping:
Nature Happenings now has its very own Substack ‘section’ which means all future posts, and an archive of previous posts now live here. I’m aiming to send one every other Wednesday. I’ll be talking about the plants, creatures and other Nature happenings I’ve seen as well as sharing recipes for wild food, drinks and medicines. I’d love to hear what Nature happenings you have seen and will be encouraging comments, questions and sharing of knowledge; I do hope you’ll join in.
An early summer round up…
I often feel a little overwhelmed in early summer. It’s hard to keep track on everything that’s happening as it all seems to happen at once. Flowers appear in abundance, baby birds noisily fledge the nest, butterflies and moths emerge on mass, bees and wasps are busy making nests, dragonflies and damselflies buzz over the rivers and lakes and the air is thick and warm, even on cloudy days.
Some of my favourite flowers to forage and make things from have been blooming of late. Meadowsweet, honeysuckle, fireweed, red clover and st John’s wort are all in flower and ready to gather. It’s been tricky as after a dry start to the season, the weather here in the north is now stormy, windy and wet; not great for foraging as flowers are best gathered on sunny mornings, so I have been left feeling a little frustrated but nonetheless, still happy to see everything in bloom. Elderflowers (from which I made a delicious fermented fizz) are now turning into berries and another early summer favourite, foxgloves are setting seed, their purple flowers closed up and transformed into green capsules. The metamorphosis of flower to seed is a magical thing to behold. Perhaps a dedicated seed head post would be something I could cover in the coming weeks? We’ve also been keeping a keen eye out for wild raspberries, a delicious treat on any hike and far superior to their cultivated cousins. Bilberries are also ripening and we’re hotly anticipating heading out to collect some this weekend.
I did manage to gather some perforate st John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) flowers last week which are now sitting in a jar of avocado oil on the kitchen windowsill where they will slowly infuse, releasing their oils, turning the mixture a deep red colour (try crushing the flowers or buds of st John’s wort between your fingers and you’ll see the red oils ooze out, a good ID tip). In around 2 weeks, I’ll strain out the flowers and use the oil on dry or damaged skin, it’s great for healing as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
St John’s wort can be found in many habitats from woodland to wasteland. It grows to around a metre tall and has groups of five petaled, star shaped yellow flowers at the top of long stems on which oval leaves grow in opposite pairs. There are a few members of the st John’s wort (Hypericaceae) family including slender st John’s wort and tutson but it is perforate st John’s wort that is said to be the best for medicine making. You can identify this type by holding up the leaves to the light - if it is covered in tiny little holes (perforations), then it’s perforated!
I also managed to collect a few fireweed flowers this week too. Fireweed or Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) is everywhere right now. Mainly growing on disturbed land (it likes burnt ground, hence its name) it grows in clumps of tall stems around 2 metres high topped with bright pink flower spikes, the leaves are long and lance shaped and grow in spirals up the stem. The leaves can be made into a fermented tea which is naturally caffeine free and said to aid anxiety, while the flowers can be used to make a syrup, which I plan to do with my small haul. The lovely book Forage, by Liz Knight, has recipes for both.
What have you noticed growing near you lately? Have you tried rosebay willowherb tea? Do let me know by leaving a comment, and if you have any questions, please ask!
Do look out for our Misc Adventures Digest which will be arriving in your inbox this Friday as usual. Andrew will be sharing thoughts on his journey with wood, trees and woodlands. It’s a lovely read.
I look forward to sharing more Nature Happenings with you in a couple of weeks! Until then, do keep in touch via notes or in the comments.
With warm wishes,