Saturday, February 22, 2014

Rampant Rust



















This is Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum flowering near Tynemouth castle at the mouth of the river Tyne, in May. At this time of year the flowers have yet to appear but there is a lot of lush growth in its glossy leaves. The plant is supposed to have been introduced as a pot herb by the Romans and it was widely grown as a spring vegetable for its edible stems and leaves for centuries, until it was replaced by celery . The feral populations that are frequently seen are usually the result of past cultivation.

















One of the reasons why it may have fallen out of favour might be this rust fungus, Puccinia smyrnii. It distorts the leaves, causing them to swell, then erupts through the surface and releases spores before they wither. Many of the plants that we saw around Tynemouth castle today were heavily infected.




































If I'd been a gardener, growing this plant in my kitchen garden, I'd be very disheartened.

More rust fungi here and here



7 comments:

  1. You are right I would not fancy eating that!!

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    1. The smell of the flowers puts me off - most unpleasant!

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  2. We have masses of alexanders round where I live. I've never tried to eat it. Each year I think I may - then I don't. Ours get rust too - but never so much that there would be nothing to eat if I wanted. Well done with the photos. I've tried and tried to photo the rust, rarely with much success. (Wrong kind of camera I suspect - at least, I'll blame it on that!)

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    1. My brother has eaten it and says it doesn't taste too bad. Not high on my list of culinary adventures though!

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  3. Did you say the flowers smell horrid? How strange. I find them wonderfully scented.

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    1. That's interesting. Scent is a very personal thing. I can't smell Sarcococca confusa but all the gardening magazines say that it's wonderfully fragrant.

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  4. Though I'm not sure the captcha really needs me to copy out 14 squiggly letters before it believes I'm human.

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