My first thought (how do these things pop into one’s head?) was bistort, but then it plainly wasn’t. I looked in a wildflower book and the nearest were some mint varieties – but it wasn’t any of them.
Then I asked on Twitter and Facebook, and on Twitter the answer came from Martin (@botanicalmartin) who said:
I think it’s Phytolacca polyandra or Chinese Pokeweed which I guess is a garden plant and not very common escaped in the wild – map here
I looked up the flower in Google and found some good photos – and it’s definitely Chinese Pokeweed. And the map that Martin mentioned also tallies because it show some specimens in Cambridge, which is where I photographed them.
They are on the fringes of an area of wild flowers in a park just a few yards from the High Street.
Were they sown, along with the wild flowers? Were they there from an earlier planting?
Martin has a WP blog The Intermingled Pot, if you would like to take a look at his take on nature and the state of nature in the UK.
The local council in Cambridge have been ‘with the programme’ over the past couple of years, sowing areas of wild flowers and letting them be. This patch is in a park near where we live, and it’s only minutes from the centre of town.
Years ago I used to read the blog by a Norwegian photographer – Bjørn Rørslett – who had a camera converted to read the ultra-violet part of the spectrum. He showed how flowers had ‘runways’ invisible to the human eye, that guided insect pollinators like lights on a landing strip.
I never looked at the underside of a poppy or I didn’t notice the black markings that are very probably on the inside of the flower head. And I am idly wondering what the flower looks like to an insect seeing it in ultra-violet part of the spectrum.
Bjørn Rørslett fell ill with Lyme disease, and I don’t know how he fared after that. Here’s the linkto the legacy site at naturfotograf and you can find the UV photos there.
And here’s a closeup of the poppy head – a crop from the first photo.