Thursday, 9 May 2013

Spring Messenger

Usually one of the first of the Spring flowers and often described as a 'Spring Messenger' as a result, the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) is a glorious sight as it begins to open its shiny, yellow flowers.  At the moment, they can be found all over the place on Shipley Park and so are frequently overlooked.  This is a great shame as they are such beautiful little blooms.  This small patch was growing in a patch of sunlight, filtering through the trees along the old Nutbrook Canal.
Of course, the most recognisable of all wild flowers has to be the Daisy (Bellis perennis).  Well known by all as the building blocks of daisy chains, they grace any area of grassland with their small, but perfect white flowers.  The 'flower' is actually an inflorescence made up of numerous tiny, yellow flowers forming the central disc, surrounded by the white-petalled flowers known sometimes as asterales or ray florets.  Here, some of them are tipped with a pale mauve-pink hue.
Standing a lot taller than either of these plants are the Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).  Again a common plant in these parts, they are members of the Brassica family, a fact which is demonstrated by their four-petalled, cruciform flowers.  These flowers are held in clusters on top of the stem which stands up to three feet tall.  The leaves give off a smell of garlic when crushed and as such can be used in salads and as an ingredient of pesto sauces.  For this reason, it has acquired the name of Poor-man's Garlic in some parts.
Lastly for today, another scented plant which is at it's best at the moment.  Gorse (Ulex europaeus), also sometimes called Furze, is a tough, spiky, evergreen shrub and it is said that somewhere in Britain, Gorse will be in flower every day of the year.  The Gorse bushes around here have taken a bit of a battering over the last couple of Winters and the bitterly cold temperatures we have had, have taken their toll.  But thankfully, they are slowly recuperating and their flowers are once again, covering their spiny stems.
In the warm sunshine, these flowers smell quite strongly of coconut and so are a delight to the nose as well as the eyes.
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