With the proper chilly days of winter behind us, the heralds of spring have been pushing their way out of the cold soil.
In the reserves there is a host of new lush green leaves from plants that are quick to take advantage of warming sun before the onset of full leaf cover and shade. Dog’s mercury may not be a very showy plant with its tiny flowers, but in a group early in the year it is a very pleasing sight. Out in the meadow and at the edges of the wood the lesser celandine is prominent with its happy yellow flowers. The name celandine comes from the Greek word for swallow and like its name sake is another of spring’s heralds. Joining the yellow colour palette soon after is Devon’s county flower the ‘first rose’ or Primrose.
Back in the woods the bluebells’ strap-like leaves have appeared and the first signs of flower buds emerge soon followed by the dangling floral bells that are so familiar and perhaps the most loved of all spring spectacles. Sadly, Primley Park also has the hybrid between the British and Spanish bluebell. The Spanish hybrid is stouter and has wider leaves. Alongside the bluebells are the pretty white flowers of the wild garlic. Stomping amongst the plant causes it to release its heady aroma, waking my belly long before lunchtime and leaving me wanting garlic bread!
The other spring representatives I eagerly welcome are
the first insects after their winter hibernation. Butterflies like the peacock will feed on the bluebells and buff-tailed bumble bee queens can be seen feeding on the primrose.
Spring is without doubt my favourite time and these plants and animals along with many other not mentioned make this time of year special. Mentally ticking off the species as they appear and sharing the ‘first one spotted’ stories with friends and colleagues is a geeky joy. I recommend that you go and visit Primley Park (other nature reserves are available) and see the show.
Reserves Warden, Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust