Tuesday, 4 May 2021

April Flowers

Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Regular visitors will have detected a renewed interest in wildflowers/weeds.  This year I am trying to be a bit more systematic so will probably do a monthly update on my wildflower sightings.  I have decided to use  Michael Scott's  Scottish Wild Flowers Mini Guide as a target checklist.  It lists the 300 most likely wildflowers to be encountered in Scotland. (This was prompted by reading Peter Marren's book Chasing The Ghost" where he tries to track down the last 50 specimens from his childhood botany book.) 

My first April flower is Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage  (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) found on a wet bankside in Hulne Park, Alnwick.  It is small but dramatic.  Currently having its moment it seems the "flower" is perhaps not a flower but brighter coloured leaves.  I am not going to worry about that.

A common characteristic of many summer plants in the carrot family is the white umbrella.  The first sighting of one of these compound umbels has put me in a tizz because now I have to brush up the the subtle distinctions between these confusable relatives.  Is this Cow Parsley, Sweet Cicely, Hogweed or the dreaded Hemlock?

Cow Parsley -Anthriscus sylvestre

I am going for the first option, although my plant identification app mistakenly suggests it could be hemlock.  

Into the woods for the aptly named Wood Sorrel flower is less of a give away than the characteristic triangular leaves that fold back like origami. Its proper name Oxalis acetosella indicates its  sourness. It is said to make an excellent rennet for cheesemaking.

Wood Sorrel - Oxalis acetosella

The hedgerow is the commonplace to find White Deadnettle, Lamium album which has only recently started flowering.

White Deadnettle, Lamium album

This obvious brassica is growing in crack between the pavement and a wall on a busy Edinburgh roundabout. It matches Winter-cress,  Barbarea vulgaris.  Related to, but not actually a wallflower!
Winter-cress - Barbarea vulgaris

This Pulmenaria officianalis or Lungwort does not appear in the book or the Scottish Wildflower website, which surprises me.  It appears halfway along the country lane we regularly walk along 

Lungwort - Pulmonaria officianalis

Nearby this butterfly had alighted on this dandelion flower.  They have erupted everywhere lately, (Including the wildflower meadow alongside the school.)

Dandelion - Taraxacum officianale

Dog violet - Viola riviniana

Pink Purslane - Claytonia sibirica 

This plant has a flower very similar to Wood Sorrel which it grows nearby.  It is an import from North America "around 1838" but is widely distributed across Scotland.  

In the shade of our nearby woods a native but thuggish resident is Dog's Mercury.  It is poisonous to dogs. It also threatens along with the ivy to take over whole areas.  The flower is not very dramatic, but out now. 

Dog's  Mercury - Mercurialis perennis

A much more recent naturalised import is "Yellow Archangel"  This escaped from gardens first recorded in the wild in the 1980s and now found in deep shade in our local wood.

Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp Argentatum

By the end of April I have accounted for about 30 of my 300 target plants.  This could be a long haul.  Although many more plants start blooming in successive months from May through to July. I don't expect to finish  this year but to arrive at a shortlist of targets for next year, 2022.  

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