Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Two stragglers and an early starter

After a couple of frosts and a bit of snow (now gone) things have slowed down dramatically and the verges are rather bare and dull. One or two late plants have started to flower, probably as a result of cutting quite early in the season: those plants never got a chance to bloom in their main season, but they still push ahead and produce flowers long after the normal flowering period is over. Meadowsweet, Cow Parsley and Hogweed are examples that I have recently seen newly in flower.

On the other hand, there are some plants that seem to linger on and continue to produce flowers much longer than expected, even after a long season of production. While I was out on a particular chase the other day (more of that later), I spotted Meadow Buttercup:

Meadow Buttercup
And a (rather bedraggled) specimen of Ragwort:

Although the leaves of this Ragwort look like Common Ragwort, the location (stream verge), number of petals and the uneven ripening of the seedhead make me think that this might actually be the hybrid between Common Ragwort and Marsh Ragwort, both of which are present near this location.

The main reason for my trip was to see if any early specimens of Lesser Celandine were in flower. There is one location where I regularly find flowering specimens months ahead of the normal schedule. I cannot fathom why this location should produce unseasonal flowers: it's at a reasonably high altitude (I live in the highest town in Ireland) and although it's a bit sheltered by overhanging Ash trees, it's also dark under their shade. It does, however, receive direct sunlight from the south.

Bang on schedule, I found a few specimens in bud:

Lesser Celandine flower bud

If the usual pattern is followed, these winter buds will never open, but will die off still in a closed state. I have no idea why a spring plant should produce flowers in the dead of winter, but it only happens (as far as I know) in this precise location, and it has happened for at least the last five years.


Toffeeapple said...

It is unusual to see those in flower at this time but you must have a micro climate there. I have flowering Wallflowers, since November and more buds keep popping up, same with the Perennial Rocket...

Gill said...

It's also possible that you are seeing a genetic sport. The test of course is to transplant one of these early budders somewhere else, but I'm not sure if it's legal to dig up plants in Ireland.

If they never open they're hardly an evolutionary success are they (unless they manage to self-pollinate and create seed anyway? Unlikely).

Stuart said...

It's either micro-climate or genetic sport, because the early-budding specimens are restricted to one particular location. It's a north - south avenue under Ash with a stream running alongside the track. Sunlight can only penetrate a short way along the avenue, since it's rising slightly. At the southern mouth of the avenue there are plenty of celandines that don't exhibit this behaviour. There's a cow field above the ditch, so perhaps there's some run-off, too.

Certainly, the effort of making these flower buds is wasted: there are very few pollinators around at this time of year. I only noticed the phenomenon a few years ago, so we have no way of knowing if the plants did it in years past.

Dulantha said...

So natural.....