Bog star shines in the dunes
AFTER the long, hot summer people are already complaining about the cold weather, which is lulling me into a feeling that winter is already here.
It’s nowhere near winter yet. There are so many flowers still blooming in our garden at the moment – especially our fantastic stand of sweet peas. And wild flowers are colouring the landscape, too.
I was out on the dunes at St Annes over the weekend with 20 wonderful volunteers. We were trying to improve the chances of rare plants growing after the devastating fire over the summer.
The problem is that some of the plants that are now growing on the ravaged soil are quite common while rarities are still hiding in the seed bank. So we were roughing up the sand to make it easier for those plants to thrive next year.
Despite that carnage, plants like the Isle of Man cabbage, which grows on the dunes, is showing in some areas, although it is not as widespread as usual. In fact, we only saw one of two blooms blowing in the seaside breeze. This plant is quite spectacular with its four-leafed yellow flower, which can rise about a foot out of a rosettes of leaves, that actually look like rocket.
In between the tea and cake stall and the fire site, I spotted some white flowers. These were grass-of-Parnassus – and that is really exciting. I had heard of these beautiful flowers on one of our Pennine moorland reserves but I had forgotten they are also found on the dunes.
I think this was my first encounter with a plant that we have in the north, but which has declined in the south.
Grass-of-Parnassus is not a grass, it gets its name from the green stripes on its white flower. They are described as ‘ivory white’ by experts and they surround a cluster of yellow stamen around the centre. Around the base of the flower, dark green, heart-shaped leaves cup the stems. Once found throughout the UK, this flower is now confined to damp pastures, moors and marshes. It is known as the bog star and it flowers between June and September.
So while the flowers are still around in my garden and out in the countryside, I refuse to accept that winter is on the way.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves. It has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers. To become a member, go lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewild lifetrust.org.uk.
Grass of Parnsassus at St Annes