Forage Friday – Mallow and Yarrow

Common mallow, in its early flowering stage, is perhaps the prettiest of our wild plants and it’s reckoned to be entirely without any harmful qualities, so ideal for our small furries (and us! And tortoises, if you have those!) to eat. It’s entirely missing in winter and spring, but in early summer can be seen growing on roadsides, lanes, waste ground, banksides and meadows. The leaves are up to 4 inches across at their widest, very bright green and shiny. They vary slightly in shape from kidney-shaped to 5-lobed but those lobes are always connected at the base into a single leaf. The centre where they meet the stalk is dark, sometimes puple-ish, and the stalks grow up from the plant base. Flowers come later in the summer and are striking. They’re rather reminiscent of many varieties of cranesbill flowers and always have 5 petals, though it may be hard to see the separation between those petals in some specimens. They vary in colour from pinkish to a deeper purple with darker stripes on each petal radiating from the centre to the edges of the petals, fading as the reach the edge. By the end of the season, the plant becomes un-attractive, with a rather tough stalk and very few leaves, which are dull and of poor quality, with perhaps one or two flowers. However, throughout, they remain totally edible. Try the plant yourself! It’s glutinous, and so great for thickening soups and stews. As always, be certain you have the plant you think you have, and wash before feeding to your pets (or yourself!) This plant flourishes in the summer and flowers from July onwards, in a variety of colours, most often white, but various shades of pink too. The leaves are reminiscent of fern and in better nourished soil, it can grow up to almost 4ft high. It is also known as Milfoil. It’s a common roadside plant, with very tough, angular stems, and in poorer soils, it rarely grows higher than a foot. It will die back in autumn and be all but undetectable over the winter. The flowers grow in clusters and it’s only when you look more closely that you can see the individual flowers and how pretty they actually are. If the plant is bruised, every part of it emits an aromatic odour. The leaflets are much cut, resembling hair-like segments. The plant can be found in most pastures. It’s believed to contain tonic properties and is often deliberately sown in permanent pasture alongside grass. …………… We are very pleased with the response to this series of messages on wild plant foraging and glad that we’ve been able to help your rabbits have a more varied diet of natural foods. Like all good things, though, it has to come to an end…but not quite. The next issue of Rabbiting On (free to all RWA members) will contain an article on foraging wild plants for rabbits. Remember too the two books we sell in our online shop, Green foods for Rabbits and Cavies by FR Bell and Rabbit Nutrition by Virginia Richardson. and also the Postcode Plants Database, so you know what is likely to grow wild in your area Many of the plants we have brought to you can be grown in your garden from seed. Contact Galens Garden or Rabbit Nutrition for seeds. We also want to remind you about our 2012 conference, Rabbit Interactive which will happen on 1st September. Watch this space for more details.