NHM – a great resource

At around 3-4m tall this is a large shrub or small tree. But what is it?

At around 3-4m tall this is a large shrub or small tree. But what is it?

We have a large shrub or small tree in front of the house at Greenholme. We have not been able to identify it since we arrived, and neither has anyone we have asked.

Multiple gnarled stems demonstrate a bushy character

Multiple gnarled stems demonstrate a mature plant with a bushy character

Careful inspection of the bark, leaves and flowers led to the following description:

Around 4m tall, bushy character, multiple twisted and gnarled trunks, not thorny. Leaves not serrated, not lobed, broadly oval with slight point at end, up to 7cm long, slightly yellowy-green, matt and hairy on both sides, and in opposite pairs. Flowers are small, pale yellow, about 1cm in length, two petals, 5 carpels, 1 stamen. They occur in pairs at the end of a flower stalk about 2 cm long, two flower stalks growing from the base of each leaf-pair. The tree is constantly buzzing with bumble and honey bees. Been in flower since mid April.

Leaves opposite, not serrated, matt and hairy

Leaves opposite, not serrated, matt and hairy

A comprehensive search through the Collins Tree Guide revealed nothing that matched.

Fly Honeysuckle_2014 05 08_0008

Inflorescence consists of a pair of small, pale yellow flowers on each stalk, each with two petals, five stamens and one carpel.

An online search through various tree and shrub dichotomous keys resulted in a couple of false positives, the closest of which was a viburnum, but the inflorescence was wrong.

So where to next?

The Natural History Museum (NHM) provides a vast wealth of online research as well as resources to assist in identification of British wildlife, including several keys, which at present cover trees, bumblebees, woodlice, lichens, earthworms and bluebells.

However, when these resources fail, it also operates various forums (fora?) in which one can ask for assistance in identifying anything. We posted the question in the trees forum, including the above photographs, and about 40 minutes later received the following reply from Mike Hardman:

It is fly honeysuckle, Lonicera xylosteum

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonicera_xylosteum

As you’ll see here, there is debate over whether it is native to Britain or if it was introduced a long time ago and has since become naturalized

http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/index.php?q=node/1424

So there we have it! And what a wonderful resource the NHM provides.

The UK plant atlas referenced in the response is another excellent resource.

The NHM also provide a useful wallet-guide for the six most common bumblebees – a really handy little card.

Greenholme - an experiment in permaculture

So what do you think?