Instead of wildflowers, this week we have some of the tree flowers I’ve noticed in recent weeks. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list but I’ve definitely got a much better appreciation for the lovely flowers so many trees have.
This native British wildflower may well be the ‘common weed of gardens, arable fields and waste places’ that my Flora Britannica describes, but I’ve only found it once, earlier this week, in my local area, despite there being plenty of those suitable habitats. This is Common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), which also goes by the vernacular names of Earth smoke and Red-tipped-web. Flora Britannica goes on to explain:
Both scientific and English names stem from the Latin Fumus terrae – ‘smoke of the earth’. The delicate, grey-green leaves do have a slightly smoky appearance, enough to persuade one seventeenth-century herbalist that ‘it appeareth to those that behold it at a distance, as if the ground were all of a smoak’.
I thought the Snowdrop was a native British wildflower but it seems not.
This is from the publication Wonderland (by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss):
Though they were once considered native, botanists now believe they were brought here from continental Europe to adorn Elizabethan gardens.
The first definite record in the wild dates from the 1770s, when they were discovered in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. If these showy flowers were truly native before then, it is hard to imagine them being overlooked.
I’m now seeing plenty of Snowdrops when I’m out and about on my exercise walks, though I’m not sure whether they’re naturalised non-natives or have been planted along the roadsides by green-fingered locals. There are several different varieties of Snowdrop, and I’ve also seen quite a lot of double-flowered varieties amongst the more common types. The doubles (pictured on the right above) are probably Galanthus nivalis Flore Pleno, according to the identification crib sheet on the BSBI website, which, if you’re interested, also gives clear details of how to ID the single-flowered varieties.
As I’m sure most of you know, in Victorian Britain flowers had special meanings, and many people could understand the language of flowers, could even send coded messages by choosing carefully the flowers they included in a floral gift to a friend or potential lover.
Crocuses, apparently, symbolised youth and cheerfulness. Sadly, my youth is long gone but seeing these beauties on a recent walk certainly made me feel cheery.
At Grangemoor Park on Friday, I spotted my first flowering Ragged robin for the year.
This gorgeous wildflower was formerly known as Lychnis flos-cuculi, but is now Silene flos-cuculi – from a scientific article I browsed, this seems a complicated story of almost constant reclassification of the species! You will still see both names used in books and on line, which is why I’ve mentioned both here.
According to a couple of books I discovered on the ‘language of flowers’, Ragged robin’s symbolic meaning is ‘wit’, and it is dedicated to Saint Barnabas. The ever-informative First Nature website says:
Lychnis, the genus name, comes from the Greek noun lychnos, meaning lamp; it refers to the use of a plant in this genus as the wick of an oil lamp. The specific epithet flos-cuculi means ‘flower of the cuckoo’ and was probably chosen because the first flowers of Ragged Robin appear just as the first cuckoos are being heard (in Britain and Ireland at least) in May.
A special moment: to try to stop it swaying in the breeze so I could get a sharp photo, I was holding one of the blooms when a bee-fly decided to zoom in for a feed of nectar. That super long proboscis comes in handy for long narrow flowers like these.
The Bluebells are in bloom!
Sadly, these are not native Bluebells but they were growing in a semi-wild location rather than in a park. As I passed along the edge of one local park yesterday, I noticed the Bluebells inside are also starting to open their gorgeous flowers but, as the park is currently closed, I can’t get in to enjoy them. Are the Bluebells out yet where you live?
During this week’s walks, which have, of course, in our current lockdown situation, been shorter and much more restricted than my usual meanderings, my mood has been brightened by the sight of our beautiful flowering wild plants, especially those that have just come into bloom in recent days. They’re a heartening reminder of better times to come … eventually. These are those I’ve found this week.
Barren strawberry (Potentilla sterilis): It seems a shame that this species of strawberry doesn’t produce the luscious fruit we all enjoy in the summer months. Instead, its berries are small and quite hard.
Common stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium): I was delighted to spot these pretty little things. I’m a big fan of the whole Geranium family, the crane’s-bills and the stork’s-bills.
Dog-violet (Viola sp.): The photos I took weren’t good enough for me to work out whether these are Early dog-violets or Common dog-violets but they’re pretty nonetheless.
Honesty (Lunaria annua): When I had a garden I used to grow Honesty, partly for its lovely flowers but also to harvest the branches of seed pods once they’d dried. I love their fragility and the way they glisten in the sunshine. Their vernacular name, Moonpennies, is so appropriate.
Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris): These were growing in the depths of a small dingle right in the middle of the town where I live, the flowers are little bright lights beaming up from the gloom.
Ramsons (Allium ursinum): That same valley where I found the Marsh-marigolds is also home to swathes of Ramsons, also known to many of us as Wild garlic. There must be thousands of these plants in the valley and along the sides of the stream bed that leads from there down towards the sea.
Now before you feel the need to correct the spelling of ‘merry-gold’ in my title, let me just say that it was deliberate because I find Marsh marigolds such cheery, merry flowers, and it always makes me smile to see them. I spotted some yesterday in Cardiff’s Heath Park, and they’re also in full flower at the moment in Penarth’s Alexandra Park, where I went for a meander earlier today.