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Adoxa moschatellina - Townhall Clock or Moschatel

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Dipsacales - Family: Adoxaceae

Townhall Clock

This lovely little wildflower is easily overlooked, because it is so small.

Description

The flowers are typically just 5mm across and greenish even when in fiull bloom. .Each stem bears five flowers, one on the top and one on each of the four side faces of a cube. Flower have five petals and five stamens, although because each of the stamens are split into two parts it looks at first glance as though there are ten stamens.

Townhall Clock - close-up of flowers

The leaves of Townhall Clock are quite similar to those of many other plants that are more common, which makes confident identification of Adoxa moschatellina when not in flower much more difficult.

Distribution

Found throughout Britain and Ireland, although uncommon and easily overlooked, Adoxa mochatellina has a world-wide range, including Europe, Asia and North America, but the coverage leaves many gaps.

Habitat

Damp, shady sites such as woodland edges, in grassy areas beside paths through mixed or deciduous woods, at the edges of tree-lined streams and ditches, and occasionally in hedgerows are the most likely places to find this hard-to-spot little wildflower.

Townhall Clock in a hedgerow, UK

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland Townhall Clock produces its flowers in April and May.

Etymology

Adoxa, the genus name, comes from Greek and means inglorious - from a- without, and -doxa praise, a reference to the inconspicuous nature and humble growth form of this plant. The specific epithet moschatellina comes from the Italian moscato, meaning musk, and refers to the musky smell of this plant. Moschatel is another common name given to this wildflower but given its cube-like flower head Townhall Clock is surely so much more descriptive.

Adoxa moschatellina, Townhall Clock, at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

There is a spectacular display of Townhall Clock beside the new footpaths created at the National Botanic Garden of Wales as part of its Regency Restoration project, opened to the public in 2021.

Townhall Clock belongs to the small botanical family Adoxaceae and is fairly closely related to Elder, Honeysuckle and other members of the family Caprifoliaceae.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Rob Petley-Jones.


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