Sunday, 4 March 2012

The lengthening day......

Salmonberry flower - a bit of a surprise

I paid a brief visit to Binscarth yesterday (Saturday). There had been a fresh southeasterly wind blowing for nearly eighteen hours bringing with it a greyness that is picked up as it passes over the North Sea. Binscarth was sheltered though and a watery but cold sun pierced through the branches lighting up the woodland floor. Lesser Celandines were bright yellow stars in some parts of the wood, in others they were the suggestion of buds. It was sobering to see that the Snowdrops were over - just a few white blossoms among the brown and dying flower-heads. Patches of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage were scattered along the burn edges and some of them were showing early yellow flowers. I was taken a little aback by finding quite a few fresh magenta flower-heads on the spindly branches of Salmonberry. I feel that spring flowering is early this year - the first Daffodils in the Willows, Kirkwall bloomed on February 27th; last year the first blooms were March 22nd.

Here is the draft for the gem that is the saxifrage:

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysoplenium oppositifolium)   Saxifrage family
Creeping Jenny, Buttered eggs
Height to 10cm; flowers March to July. Local and rare in Orkney (5/28); hard to find.

Individually these relatively tiny perennials with greasy green leaves and yellow flower-heads can easily be overlooked given their preference to be in damp and shady places. Elaine Bullard considers them to be frequently found under the stems of tall wetland plants; in such situations they can be  barely noticeable. However they are also frequently found on open ground in damp woodlands and when seen en masse they can be as vivid a carpet of yellow as Marsh Marigolds. In Orkney they are most usually found either alongside or close to some of the burns that run through Mainland plantations; some of the most extensive mats of this saxifrage can be found in Binscarth Wood, Firth and Wideford woodland in St Ola.

Medicinally it has been utilised to address melancholy and in the kitchen as a salad - in the Vosges it is esteemed as ‘cresson de roche’ – rock cress. The leaves are opposite and rounded and the flowers are in golden-yellow umbels.

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

clinging to the burn bank

miniature radiance

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