In the midst of a week of glorious weather, frustratingly spent, much of it, stuck indoors at work, a small window presented itself, an opportunity for a short local walk. Heading up towards Eaves Wood I was pleased to see white violets flowering.
And nearby, large and cheerful clumps of these scilla. I only know that these are scilla after a helpful comment in reply to a previous post back in the early days of this blog.
After another post with not one but several appeals for assistance in identifying plants, Sheila recommended ‘The Wild Flower Key’ which I eventually got around to adding to my growing natural history library. Now that the wild flower season is getting into full swing I’m keen to put my new book to the test. I knew that there are several different violets – would the keys enable me to distinguish between them?
I only looked at the relevant pages after I got back from my walk – had I consulted it before hand I would have known to look out for 4 key features:
- whether runners (stolons or rhizomes) present or not
- whether lf-stalk has hairs or not and if hairs are adpressed to lf-stalk or spreading
- stipule-teeth hair-like or triangular
- sepals blunt or pointed
The book uses a vocabulary with which I am not entirely familiar and to add to the confusion some words are always abbreviated. (There is a full glossary however!)
In fact, I’m not sure about any of the first three points – but it seems to me that the sepals are blunt. What’s more – the book has helpful diagrams and more information. So – the flowers are white which narrows the options, the flower stalks are leafless……..I think that these are sweet violets, our only scented variety. Did they smell sweet – hmm…….didn’t think to check that! Something to remember for next time.
One note of caution however – apparently violets are prone to hybridisation and identification can therefore be difficult. Oh.
Still – I think I shall enjoy this kind of detective work. I’ve been savouring a book of short essays about nature and life in the country during World War II, ‘Highland Pack’ by Neil Gunn.
Sometimes I am astonished at the amount of pleasure or delight which in a forgetful mood one passes by on the other side.
One can cultivate surprise, just as one can cultivate onions. Let there be nothing mysterious about this. Every sense can be trained. Appreciation can be deepened. The first magical surprise at sight of a lovely thing need not be the last nor the profoundest.
No difficulties identifying this…
…lesser celandine. There’s a patch of earth beneath some trees on the street near work which is completely covered with them, and this week when I passed them they were all stretching wide open, every flower stem perfectly upright, straining sunwards like eager nestlings striving for a tasty worm. Celandines close when they are not in the sun (why?), and along my route, mostly in shade, they were mostly closed.
But not all….
A little further up the hill there are more violets, not white but still relatively pale.
The strong purple veins or nectar-guides which many violets have are absent. More sweet violets? Sometimes I may have to take the book out with me.
In the woods, both on the National Trust property and also over on the north side of the woods, a great deal of coppicing has been carried out and I think that this might at least in part in order to encourage the violets – violets are an important food-source for fritillary butterflies which can be found in this area.
At Arnside Tower I had intended to turn right and head into Middlebarrow wood. The first ever post on this blog recounted a similar walk:
I took a tour around Eaves Wood, looking for a green flower that I thought I remembered finding here at this time of year before. But perhaps not this early, because I didn’t find it today. This is, in part, the reason for the Blog because hopefully next year I will have a record of when and where to look through the course of the year.
The flower I was looking for was green hellebore and in January I was being extremely optimistic, or perhaps I should say wholly unrealistic. Writing the blog has helped a great deal in terms of knowing when and where to spot certain phenomena. Not necessarily because I look back, although I do that sometimes, but because taking and sorting the photos and writing-up my exploits seems to help me to remember. One thing I remember is that near Far Arnside I have seen daffodils and green hellebore flowering together. I’ve also posted a photo on the blog of green hellebore in Middlebarrow woods from the end of March. So I was hoping to head into Middlebarrow Wood and find the green hellebore again. But I’d spent so much time grovelling around photographing violets that I didn’t really feel that I had enough time left to do that. (Somebody needed to cook a family tea and that somebody was me.)
I turned right instead, taking a more direct route which skirts Holgates Caravan Park. I kept scanning the bases of the hedgerows on either side of the track hoping that the hellebore might grow here too…and lo and behold….
In fact in the end I saw quite a lot of plants, some of them still catching the sun, but frustratingly on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence for me to get sufficiently close to take good macro photographs.
Next time ,hopefully I will see them in sunnier circumstances and get some sharper close-ups.
Another area in which I am hoping to fail better is in catching some photos of magpies whilst I’m out and about. They are very common birds in our vicinity, but most elusive when a camera is pointed in their direction.