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Helianthemum nummularium - Common Rock-rose

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Malvales - Family: Cistaceae

Common Rock-rose

Common Rock-rose is a perennial, low-growing and sometimes almost prostrate wildflower.

Common Rock-rose, closeup of flowers

Description

This spreading plant grows to about 30cm in height. Its woody reddish stems branch and are variably hairy. The yellow flowers, each with five touching or overlapping crinkled petals, open in sunshine and close up at night - hence the genus name Helianthemum, which means 'sun flower'. The flowers are typically 20 to 25mm across, while the lanceolate leaves are evergreen and 5 to 20mm long and have a few hairs on the upper surfaces while their undersidesare white and densely covered in fine woolly hairs.

Habitat

In Britain and Ireland this wildflower is nearly always associated with dry alkaline soils.

Leaves of Common Rock-rose

Distribution

In Britain and Ireland, Common Rock-rose is common and widespread wherever there is chalky grassland or limestone cliffs and rocky areas. It is particularly common in southern England and in parts of Scotland. On mainland Europe this member of the family Cistaceae occurs from Scandinavia right down to the Mediterranean as well as in parts of North Africa.

Blooming times

In Britain and Ireland Common Rock-rose produces flowers from May through to September.

Etymology

The specific epithet nummularium means 'shaped like a coin'.

Similar species

Hoary Rock-rose Helianthemum oelandicum is also found mainly in limestone and chalk regions of Britain and Ireland; it starts flowering a month or so earlier than Common Rock-rose and its flowers are usually much smaller than those of Common Rock-rose.

In the Mediterranean region of Europe, Spotted Rock-rose Tuberaria guttata is very common; it has yellow petals with distinctive red patches at their bases.

Several other members of the Rock-rose family (Cistaceae) occur in the Mediterranean region include Cistus Albidus (Grey-leaved Cistus) and Cistus salviifolius (Sage-leaved Cistus).

The Common Rock-rose specimens shown here were photographed in southern France during June.


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