cowslip, Dandelion, early purple orchid, flower folklore about cowslip, hart's tongue fern, hawthorn in flower, welsh poppy, white-tailed bumblebee, wild strawberry, wildflowers of Bryn Euryn, woodruff
The local nature reserve on Bryn Euryn is a popular venue for a wide variety of walkers and is not usually the place I head for if I fancy a long peaceful walk. But, if you happen to get the timing right there are occasions when you can meander around and almost have the place to yourself. So it was on a damp afternoon a couple of weeks ago when I went there just to see what there was to see.
The small meadow next to car park was golden with dandelions that were attracting the attention of a number of bumblebees.
Some of the flowers have already gone to seed.
Harts Tongue ferns are a feature of the local woodlands here and already quite well grown.
Harts Tongue Fern – Phyllitis scolopendrium. The plants are unusual in the genus of ferns as they have simple, undivided fronds. The leaves are 10–60 cm long and 3–6 cm broad, with sori (A sorus (pl. sori) is a cluster of sporangia (structures producing and containing spores) that are arranged in rows perpendicular to the rachis. ) In plants a rachis is the main axis of the inflorescence or spike. In ferns it is also the part of the axis to which the pinnae are attached.
The plant’s common name derives from the shape of its fronds, being thought to resemble a deer’s tongue: hart was an alternative word for “stag”, from the Old English heorot, “deer”. The sori pattern is reminiscent of a centipede’s legs, and scolopendrium is Latin for “centipede”.
This fern was recommended as a medicinal plant in folk medicine as a spleen tonic and for other uses.
Whilst still in the cover of woodland I spotted a Long-tailed Tit foraging amongst tree branches and a Song Thrush out on the path also hunting. I saw and heard several Robins, Blue and Great Tits and Chiffchaff. A family of Magpie were also out and about, five of them up near the summit and there were Greenfinch lower down around the carpark.
I changed my route slightly today, mainly to avoid the uphill track through the woodland which was very muddy and quite slippery, choosing instead a surfaced one that leads around the base of the Bryn (hill). Happily, being more open and less shaded, there were plants growing here I would otherwise have missed.
Wild strawberry – Fragaria vesca very much resembles a miniature garden strawberry and similarly produces delicious tiny sweet berries. It is a very common plant throughout the British Isles and Western Europe found growing on all but strongly acid or waterlogged soils.
There is a similar-looking plant, the Barren Strawberry, which has duller grey-green leaves.
I was really pleased to find a Welsh poppy in flower along here, I used to have them in my garden when we lived in South Wales and loved them, especially where they seeded themselves amongst blue forget-me-nots.
The Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) is a perennial plant native to south-western England, Wales, Ireland and Western Europe. Its favoured habitat is damp, shady places on rocky ground, and although its common name is ‘welsh poppy’, it is also native to south-western England, Wales, Ireland and Western Europe. In its most westerly locations, it is increasingly found on more open ground with less cover. It is also especially well adapted to colonising gaps and crevices in rocks and stones, which has enabled it to colonise urban environments, sometimes growing between paving slabs and at the edges of walls.
Another favourite plant from my childhood, the cowslip, was also present here growing along the path edges, so I was sure there would be more once I reached the grassy slope of the lower hillside. I was not disappointed, there were beautiful masses of them.
Cowslip – Primula veris, also variously known as Herb Peter, Paigle, Peggle, Key Flower, Key of Heaven, Fairy Cups, Petty Mulleins, Crewel, Buckles, Palsywort, Plumrocks.
According to folklore, cowslips first grew from the ground where St Peter dropped his keys and this is recorded in the French, German, and Old English names (clef de Saint Pierre, Schlusselblumen, and Key of Heaven respectively). The name cowslip, on the other hand, derives from the old English name, cūslyppe or cowslop, because the plant used to grow best in meadows frequented by herds of cows.
The species name vēris means “of spring”.
Despite its pungent choice of habitat, the flowers of the cowslip have a lovely, almost-apricot scent and not so long ago were sufficiently and reliably abundant to allow them to be picked and used to make deliciously fragrant cowslip wine. (Now of course it is illegal to pick flowers from the wild so if you want to try it you’d have to find an alternative supply.) Cowslip is frequently found on more open ground than Primula vulgaris (primrose) including open fields, meadows, and coastal dunes and clifftops. Nowadays the seeds are often included in wild-flower seed mixes used to landscape motorway banks and similar civil engineering earth-works where the plants may be seen in dense stands.
The traditional medicinal uses of cowslip are widespread and the different parts of the plant are still commonly used to treat a variety of complaints as wide ranging as lung disorders, insomnia, gout,arthritis and anxiety. The herb is also reputed to have beneficial effects on the heart . (Active ingredients include saponin glycosides, including primulic acid, primulaveroside, and primveroside; volatile oil; tannins; flavonoids, including luteolin, apigenin, kaempferol, and quercetin; phenolic glycosides). Its flowers and leaves are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, sodium and salicylates which help strengthen the immune system through its antioxidant properties and by lowering the cholesterol level.
Cowslip can effectively alleviate headaches but is not recommended to those who are allergic to aspirins, because of its high quantity of salicylates (the main basis for aspirin).
This herb is also used in cosmetics, used as an ingredient in face creams for its regenerating effects.
The cowslips were wonderful, but an even bigger treat were the orchids, masses of pretty early purple ones.
Finally lifting my eyes from ground level and the flowers, I was surprised to realise that the highest peak in our view from here across to the mountains of Snowdonia actually had snow on it.
Amongst some shrubby bushes, including the hawthorn, I came across a little flower I had almost forgotten about as it is so long since I saw it last, the delicate white-flowered Woodruff.
Woodruff –Galium odoratum is an herbaceous perennial plant native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. Other common names include woodruff, sweet woodruff, and wild baby’s breath.
It grows to 30-50 cm (12-20 ins.) high but it is a weak-stemmed that is often found lying flat along the ground or supported by other plants it prefers partial to full shade in moist, rich soils.
The flowers sweet smell is due to the presence of the odiferous agent coumarin; this scent intensifies as the plant wilts that persists on drying, and the dried plant is traditionally used in pot-pourri and as a moth deterrent. It is also used, mainly in Germany, to flavour May wine (called “Maiwein” or “Maibowle” in German), syrup for beer (Berliner Weisse), ice cream, and medicinally as a herbal tea with gentle sedative properties, but beware, high doses can cause headaches, due to the toxicity of coumarin.