Walking above Warminster on the edge of the military land that stretches away to Imber, a flash of mauve caught my eye. We were heading from the Battlesbury Hill fort to Scratchbury and maybe on to Heytesbury, walking on the side of what looked like a piece of set-aside land. Memory said that last year it had been put down to canola, and there were certainly traces of regeneration from that crop interspersed with poppy, mugwort, pineapple wort and much more.
The flash of mauve turned out to be Lacy Phalecia: Phacelia tanacetifolia, also called purple tansy, blue tansy, bee phacelia, fiddleneck and lacy scorpion-weed. This is a non-native member of the Borrage dynasty. There's a great picture of it here.
Phacelia tanacetifolia is an annual flower native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, so what was it doing in Warminster. Did soldiers bring it back on their boots – they certainly route-march on this land coming up from Waterloo Lines in the town. Unlikely, perhaps, as I'm sure the MoD will surely have a clean-boot policy. More likely than to have been part of a green manure mix applied to the land to boost fertility.
Such a beautiful plant and good for bees, I read. So, how are we supposed to think of it? Is this immigrant to be welcomed or shunned? It will be obvious what I think.