Wednesday, 24 March 2010

PLANT: Two similar-looking Fumitories (Fumaria capreolata and F. purpurea)

July 1 & 4, 2009:
Fumaria capreolata and F. purpurea appear very similar and are easily confused. They have almost the same habit and have flowers of similar shape and colour. They are the only two British species in which the flowers become sharply inclined downwards as they mature. F. purpurea is known from only limited areas of the country and is classified as a Red Data Book plant so, being rare, its correct identification is important. F. capreolata is more widespread and is often found in areas close to the coast. Both are most attractive plants despite occurring as weeds in ruderal or arable habitats.

Fumaria capreolata (above)

Fumaria purpurea (above)

The main distinguishing characters are relatively slight. Although the flowers of both species turn pink on maturity, those of F. capreolata are almost pure white initially whereas those of F. purpurea bear a distinct pinkish flush. When the corollas are viewed laterally (see below) the upper central keel is often still visible in F. capreolata but not so in F. purpurea. Also, the inflorescence of F. capreolata is usually more sparsely-flowered. As with many difficult species they can sometimes best be separated by their almost undefinable ‘jizz’.

Flowers of F. capreolata (top) and F. purpurea (bottom)

The plants were examined and photographed near Lancaster (F. purpurea) and Scarborough (F. capreolata) in 2009.

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