Friday, 4 April 2014

Twitching Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

Last Sunday I fulfilled one of those lifetime ambitions that only a geeky botanist would have - to see Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) flowering. 

In the morning Pete and I had coffee with his Mum in Spalding, and then headed west to Morkery Wood, which I knew had two populations of this uncommon ancient woodland plant. After the first picnic of the year, and a short stop to photograph moschatel Adoxa moschatellina and wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, we walked through the wood to find the southern population. After a short search I found two good patches, but alas no flowers. This is not at all unusual as this species is a shy-flowerer, and often persists in the vegetative state for many years. It can be tricky to find, especially when growing among bluebells, but each plant only has a singe linear leaf, which has either three or five noticeable ridges on the reverse.

Adoxa moschatellina

Oxalis acetosella

Although I was a little disappointed it was a beautiful day to be out, and there were plenty of other wildflowers to admire, including a solitary summer snowflake Leucojum aestivum (probably planted but first recorded in 2004), toothwort Lathraea clandestina, a good patch of small teasel Dipsacus pilosus and the hybrid between primrose and cowslip Primula x polyantha. We took a circuitous route and ended up walking near the northern boundary of the wood, where I knew the other population was located. 

Leucojum aestivum

Dipsacus pilosus seed-head

Primula x polyantha

I'd nearly given up hope when we found two extremely large patches of Gagea, both flowering profusely. Pete counted at least 118 flowering spikes, and most were in perfect condition. Bliss!

Gagea lutea

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