The forage maize crop has now been harvested. There are few Farm-Fed Anaerobic Digestors in Gloucestershire and I must admit I am not sure how late some of the growers for such an end market do or dare leave their crops in the field.
One of the things you can see post-harvest is how successful herbicides were in controlling the targeted weeds. It is possible to find a myriad of weird and wonderful species left behind. Perennial Mint or Redshank, bits of Couch grass and occasionally Jimsonweed or to call it by a more common name, Thornapple.
Thornapple is an introduced annual weed often found in fields with flowing water along one or more boundaries. Capsule and seeds are buoyant in water and can remain floating for 10 or more days. Seeds may also be easily dispersed by farm machinery.
Once a plant produces seed that matures it can be dispersed 1-3 m from the parent by dehiscence of the seed capsule. Ripe seed may then germinate immediately but often the majority enter dormancy. Burial of seed increases the risk of enforcing dormancy. Once seeds is buried is has a life expectancy of 30+ years.
The plants flower from July to October. Seeds mature 30 days after pollination and the seed capsule opens 20 days later. Seeds will continue to ripen in capsules on cut down plants. It is thought that without adequate control the weed will build up to become a major problem within 5-6 years.
Toxicity of the plant varies but it is considered poisonous to humans, horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens. Livestock normally avoid eating it but may be poisoned by eating contaminated hay, silage or seed screenings.