Freitag, 13. September 2013

Plant of the Day (September 13th, 2013) - Eryngium campestre L.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Eryngium campestre L. from the Apiacae family. In German, the species has many different names like “Rolldistel”, “Radendistel” or “Krautdistel”. However, the most common name is “Feld-Mannstreu”. In English, the species is known as “Field Eryngo”.

1) Description
E. campestre - habitus

E. campestre is a perennial plant, which can reach heights between 20 and 100 centimeters ( to inches). The species can recognized easy on fields and meadows, because its ripped stalk and leaves have a greyish color. The whole plant is branched richly with sideways protruding branches.

E. campestre - umbel, bracts and leaves
 
The leaves are coarse with three leaves per node. They are irregular pinnate with a rough serrated margin and some spiky tips. All in all, the whole plant reminds to a thistle. However, thistles aren't a real genus or species of plant. It's more slang and describes many thorny and spiky plants on meadows or pastures. 

 E. campestre -umbels and bracts
 
As with all Apiaceae, the inflorescences of E. campestre are umbels. However, these umbels are more spherically than the umbels of other species from the Apiaceae family (like Heracleum sphodylium). The bracts of these umbels are very narrow and pointy. The actual flowers are inconspicuous with small, indistinguishable petals and sepals. Both have a green or white-green color. Flowering Time is between July and August.

E. campestre -umbel with flowers

The ripe fruits are spread by the wind, which brakes entire clusters out of the umbels. These clusters roll away and germinate miles away on suitable ground. In Botany, such a cluster like diaspore is a Tumbleweed, while this special kind of spreading is called Chamaechorie. You may know it from old western movies.

2) Distribution

E. campestre is native to Western-Europe and Eurasia. In middle-Europe, especially Germany, it is a not so common plant, which grows mostly in the valleys of the great rivers like the Rhine. In higher regions, the species is mostly missing. As a result, E. campestre is protected by law in Germany as a “threaten species”.

 such a meadow at the Rhine is a habitat for
E. campestre

The species prefers warm and sunny places and dry soil with a low contain of nutrient. Its natural habitat are dry meadows (on lime) but it can also found on ruderal wastelands and pastures.


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