Sunday, 29 January 2017

Lotus corniculatus -- Bird's-Foot Trefoil

Add caption

Lotus corniculatus is a common flowering plant in the pea family (Fabaceae), native to grassland in temperate Eurasia and North Africa. The common name for this plant is bird's-foot trefoil although this name is often also applied to other members of the genus as well. 

Speaking of common names, Lotus corniculatus has had many common English names over the centuries, most of which are now largely out of use. These names were usually connected with the yellow and orange colour of the flowers, e.g. 'butter and eggs' or ‘bacon and eggs’. I’ve known this plant since I was young and to this day, I still call it by the name I learned as a youngster: “butter and eggs”.

These days, it is also a common plant in so many European and North American pastures. It is often used as forage and is widely used as food for livestock due to its non-bloating properties. In North America, the commercial form of this plant used in pasture seed is known as bird's-foot deer vetch.  In my mind, I actually see it as two plants: one found in commercial mixes for seeding pasture land and another one that is found growing wild.

The genus name, Lotus, is from the Greek and includes, in its many designations, any shrubby plant of the legume family, having red, pink, yellow or white flowers. The species name, corniculatus, comes from the Latin and means “small horns”.

Seed pod arrangement which
gave rise to the name of
Lotus corniculatus is a perennial, herbaceous plant, similar in appearance to some clovers (note the leaves in my drawing above). The flowers, mostly pollinated by bumblebees, develop into small pea-like pods or legumes. The name 'bird's foot' refers to the appearance of the seed pods on their stalk (see photo at right). Five leaflets are present, but with the central three held conspicuously above the others, hence the use of the name 'trefoil' (an ornamental design of three rounded lobes like a clover leaf, used typically in architectural tracery). 

The height of the plant is variable, from 5–20 cm, occasionally more where supported by other plants; the stems can reach up to 50 cm long. It is typically sprawling at the height of the surrounding grassland. It can survive fairly close grazing, trampling, and mowing. It is most often found in sandy soils. It flowers from June to September. 

I became very aware of this plant recently when I watched a series of shows about Shetland* and saw bird's-foot trefoil and Thrift growing right up to the edges of those steep cliffs above the ever-churning sea. Although this land has been grazed by sheep and other ruminants for untold centuries, bird’s-foot trefoil has survived and prospered in spite of constant grazing and the wild, winter storms of the North Atlantic. *[Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands, is a subarctic archipelago that lies northeast of the island of Great Britain and forms part of Scotland, United Kingdom (see map below).]

Map showing Shetland Islands in relation to the rest of Great Britain and Scotland

The more I thought about, the more impressed I became with this little plant – a plant so familiar to me. So, I decided to try drawing it. While the results are not spectacular, I had a wonderful time doing the drawing as my thoughts were filled almost constantly with the stark and beautiful images of the Shetland Islands.

Shetland Island -- Eshaness Cliffs

Portions of the text above were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki drinking from water dish
This past Friday, a most disturbing event occurred -- an event that left me doubting my own sanity!

It was noontime and I was preparing lunch for myself after having given Suki her medication followed by her usual serving of turkey and gravy.  I wasn't paying too much attention to her as I was busy fixing myself a sandwich. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of a cat lapping water. Doubting the possibility of what my ears were hearing, I quickly turned and saw that Suki was busily drinking from her water dish. Truly, I could not believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing!

I mean, you all know -- those of you who regularly read my stories about Suki -- that Suki never drinks water.  The cat is 8 years old and in all that time I have never once seen her drinking water from a water dish -- or any other receptacle for that matter.  True, I have always kept a water dish available for her simply because it seemed somehow unnatural not to at least make water easily available just in case.  However, in all these years, I have, daily, simply emptied a completely full water dish, washed it and returned it to her feeding station with no expectation that she would be drinking any of it.

This is why I doubted the evidence of my own senses this past Friday. Thus, with my credulity strained to the breaking point, I watched as Suki spent the next few minutes carefully lapping up mouthful after mouthful of water. Once she had had her fill, she sat upright and gave me that look which says, "O.K., now where are my crunchies?"

After eating a few of bites of this dry food, Suki stretched, wandered slowly over to her chair, jumped up, settled down, gave herself a quick bath and then went soundly to sleep.  I stood there watching her carefully, half expecting to wake up suddenly and find that this had all been a dream.  I even wondered, briefly, whether all this was simply a morphine hallucination instead of reality; however, I knew that I had not taken any extra medication by mistake.  

Finally, I decided that the evidence before me was indeed real and had to be accepted as reality.  I did remain somewhat skeptical, however, and I was determined to observe Suki's behaviour very carefully for the remainder of the day.  Of course, she slept for most of the next six hours so there really wasn't much to observe.  

So, when I sat before Suki her evening meal of turkey and gravy, I found a chair and watched her rather than preparing my own supper. Amazingly, she behaved exactly as she had at noontime -- she finished her wet food and then moved over to her water dish where she began to lap up the water. Once again, after drinking a good quantity of H2O, she asked for a bit of her dry food and then headed for the bedroom to have another nap.  She behaved the same way once again when I gave her the usual bedtime snack.

At this point, I had to assume that a miracle had occurred and that Suki, after eight years, had become a "new" cat!  I fell asleep that night thinking about this strange occurrence and found that it was still very much in my thoughts when I awakened the next morning. As a consequence, I made certain that Suki had a clean dish with fresh water as soon as I went into the kitchen on Saturday morning.

But, guess what? Since then, Suki has once again ignored the water dish completely.  It is as though Friday never even happened.  This, of course, has made me doubt my senses all the more.  I realize now that I should have taken a video of this amazing event, but at the time I was too stunned to even think of such a thing.  

I am still trying to figure out just what happened and why, suddenly, after eight years, Suki spent one day behaving like a "normal" cat and then returned to her normal-abnormal behaviour of completely abstaining from water.  What on earth could have caused her to behave in such an unusual way just for one day? I thought it might be the food, but then it was exactly the same food she gets every day -- nothing was different.

If any of you "cat people" out there have any ideas, please pass them along. This is a mystery that I will continue to puzzle over for some time to come, I'm sure.

Other than having unusual experiences with my cat, I have continued to recover from this flu bug.  It has left me with a lack of energy which is making it difficult for me to catch up with all the email I received during the 10 days when I was so very sick.  There are some of you who, I know, are awaiting replies to your emails so I ask you to be patient -- I will answer each and every one of them in time.

As for my usual complaints, they continue unabated.  I actually have an appointment tomorrow afternoon with the director of the pain clinic at the nearby teaching hospital.  He will assess my present treatment program and provide whatever prescriptions I need.  I will let you know next Sunday if we agree to make any serious changes to my treatment regimen. 

I wish you all a week filled with happiness and delightful coincidences! 


No comments: