27 August 2009

Gallant and shaggy soldiers

Yesterday I was very surprised to find this flower growing in the grass verge outside the house of a friend I was visiting. I recognised it immediately as one of the two Galinsoga species, which are very rare aliens in Scotland (though widespread further south). They originate from South America.

I am almost certain that it is Galinsoga quadriradiata, or Shaggy Soldier, as the leaves and stem are very hairy and the leaves are quite strongly toothed.

It was first found growing wild in Britain in 1909. It is recorded in the New Atlas of the British and Irish flora as being currently found in only 5 10k squares in Scotland, and these do not include the square in which I have now found it, so it is a new record.

The most amazing thing about this find is that in 2003 I found the other Galinsoga species, Galinsoga parviflora, or Gallant Soldier, and this was the only current record in Scotland.

The leaves of this plant are clearly less strongly toothed, and the plants was much less hairy, though the best way to tell the species apart is supposed to be by differences in the tiny scales in the flowers and fruits.

Gallant Soldier is also known as Kew Weed, as it was first introduced to Kew Gardens in around 1796 and subsequently escaped from there.

It seems strange that what are possibly the two rarest plants I have found in Scotland happen to be the two species of the same genus.

Identification details:
Key (Digital flora of Taiwan)
Interactive flora of NW Europe - Gallant Soldier
Interactive flora of NW Europe - Shaggy Soldier

More information:
Our website (Gallant Soldier)

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