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Species Notebook:

  • White Bryony

    White Bryony: in need of support

    Post date: Monday, 3 October, 2016 - 21:12

    I love hedgerows! As you walk alongside one you see different leaf shapes, flowers and fruits constantly changing as the variety of hedgerow shrubs intermingle with each other. Occasionally you encounter other plants using the shrubs for support and one of the most common are the long strands of the white bryony (Bryonia dioica).

    The white bryony is a member of the marrow family and climbs in hedgerows by the use of tendrils which wind themselves around the host shrub's branches but, in so doing, they do the host no harm. The stems are very long, thin strands and could certainly not grow upwards without support. Along the strands a series of cream or pale green flowers erupt, interestingly the male flowers are on different plants to the female flowers. The female flowers turn into bright red berries later in the year. The berries are poisonous and they should not be eaten; indeed, if they are squeezed they can cause ulcers or rashes on the skin.

    White bryony is quite common in hedgerows on chalk/lime soils. It could possibly be confused with the totally unrelated black bryony but the leaves of each are very different. The white bryony has large, pale, three lobed leaves whilst the black has glossy dark green heart shaped ones. There are other differences too when one looks closely.


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