There is no better time to enjoy the beauty of our woods than after a spell of Summer rain. The new season’s greenery is washed clean and refreshed. The dark, wet tree trunks contrast strongly with the bright greens of early Summer leaves. The air is laden with the delicious earthy scents of damp woodland, mingled with the fragrance of ‘green’. Did you know you could smell ‘green’? In damp woodlands in June, I am sure you can.
As well as enjoying the woods and their glories generally, on this occasion I was watching out for one particular woodland flower, the Wood Avens Geum urbanum (also known as Herb Bennet). Last week, when I was giving you the answers to my fun plant quiz, I discovered that somehow I did not have any photographs of this very common woodland flower. Hopefully, we would be able to rectify this situation.
Soon after entering the woods, we were spotting Wood Avens growing beside the woodland paths. Their delicate yellow flowers dotted the path-side greenery.
Here you can see the Wood Avens plant, nestled in amongst the grasses with its bright yellow flower.
Here’s a closer look at the Wood Avens flower. The yellow petals are very fragile and look as if they may blow away at any moment.
The Wood Avens flower only lasts a brief time before the red hooked seedhead develops. The seedheads are rather more robust and will stay around across the Summer. The hooks of the ripe seeds would enable them to hitch a ride on a passing animal and so spread the flower seeds further.
Later on our woodland walk, I spotted this little Woodland Spirit resting on a Red Clover leaf. Can you see him too? 🙂
Our Summer woodlands are painted with an artist’s palette of wild flowers and greenery. Wherever we walk, our senses are treated to a kaleidoscope of colours and scents.
On this occasion our walk took us along a favourite path that is always rather wet and muddy. Either side of the narrow woodland path, the tumble of undergrowth was dotted with the bright pinks of Herb Robert, the purples of Tufted Vetch, the pastel pinks of Dog Roses, the bright yellows of Buttercups, the creamy whites of Honeysuckle and the lofty white umbels of Hogweed.
However, this time I decided to seek out some of the less obvious flowers to share with you.
This is Brooklime Veronica beccabunga. I love that Latin name – I think it sounds like it should be the name of a character in a Roald Dahl story!
Brooklime belongs to the Speedwell family and has a small bright blue flower with a pale greenish-white centre, fairly typical of Speedwells. However, unlike other Speedwells it is likely to be the fleshy green oval leaves you’d notice first.
The delicate Brooklime flowers grow in pairs from the leaf axils and I always feel look rather small for the size of the leaves. As its name suggests, Brooklime grows in marshy places. Our patch here grows in a very muddy spot and is often part of a puddle.
At the next path junction I smelled a tell-tale Summer smell and soon spotted some stems of Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria with their fluffy sprays of creamy flowers. It was from these flowers that this distinctive scent was drifting. In some parts of our woods Meadowsweet grows in swathes but here there were only a few stems.
They had sprung through a bare patch of earth bank on the side of a drainage ditch, dug as part of some footpath repair work earlier in the year. It will be lovely to see a little colony of these flowers developing along this muddy ditch. Meadowsweet is another plant that likes to grow in damp and marshy places.
On the other side of the path I spotted some straggling stems of the delicate Common Marsh-Bedstraw Galium palustre, growing through the path-side vegetation. As you’d expect, the ‘Marsh’ in this plant’s name confirms the habitat in which it grows. Similarly to other Bedstraw species, the leaves of Common Marsh-Bedstraw grow in whorls around the stem. Its 4-petalled white flowers grow in small clusters. Unlike some ‘little white flower’ species, the flowers of this Bedstraw are quite sculptured and well-defined. I love the curve of the petals – they look like tiny sugar flowers.
Another plant that was re-establishing itself on the side of the drainage ditch was Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa. This curious flower is another inhabitant of damp woodlands. It is unusual in having square stems and Figwort flowers are quite odd too.
The flower buds are globular but then the ‘upper lip’ opens like a mouth to reveal its maroon throat and a yellow ‘tongue’!
My son said it reminded him of a mini version of the Pitcher plant we’ve seen in botanic gardens. However, unlike the Pitcher plant, I don’t believe Figwort is carnivorous! We see lots of it in our woods, especially along the verges of the wide woodland rides where its moist habitat is often found.
Along the path edge I spotted some pale blue spikes of Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis. On closer inspection you can see the pale blue flowers of Heath Speedwell also have violet veins running through them. The soft furry leaves are spoon-shaped with a serrated edge. I love the shape of the pale violet flower buds with their protective green sepals. Heath Speedwell is a grassland flower but we often find it along woodland rides too.
I must give credit to my son for the photos in this post. His efforts to capture images of small flowers in difficult lighting conditions are usually more successful than mine 🙂
There’s nothing quite like a wet woodland walk for reviving the senses and uplifting the soul – and such a walk was a perfect prescription for me this week as I have been rather busy dealing with an irksome legal issue. It also gave me a great opportunity to grab some photos for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week as the theme is Water.
On the day I flung down my papers and pencils and announced that I needed some air, it had been raining all morning. I think up to that point the weather had completely passed me by – my head was definitely elsewhere, full of words and arguments from the problem I was wrestling with.
Living on a northern English hillside means we see quite a lot of rain so we’ve come to enjoy the out-of-doors in pretty much all kinds of weather. Rain was just fine for me today – in fact it was rather soothing as it pattered down on paths and in puddles. I love the way it runs down the tree trunks making networks of rivulets in the patterns of the tree bark. Some of the beech tree trunks were soaked and stood dark and sombre. In stark contrast, the wet lichen on them had adopted a bright, almost other-worldly, iridescent green glow. It was quite beautiful.
Walking in the rain also meant that I was carrying my umbrella, which in turn meant I didn’t really have many spare hands for taking photographs. My son liked this as it meant I didn’t stop quite so often!
We headed off down through the woods towards the river. For some reason this seems to be a direction we are often drawn to on rainy days. Not too surprisingly, we passed no-one as we strode along, gulping in deep breaths of the gloriously fresh air. It was my son who uttered the phrase on this occasion, but it’s always said on days like this – “I love the smell of wet woods!” It really is amazing, especially now, in Spring. You can smell green. Yes, I know green is a colour – but in damp woods in Spring, green takes on another dimension. It colours the air with a heady aroma of newly grown leaves and flowers. Ah, yes! You can smell green!
Today there was a yellow afterglow too – gorse! For everyone who doesn’t know, gorse is a very common prickly shrub here in the UK that bears the most beautifully yellow pea-type flowers. In a light Spring breeze you will know you are in the presence of gorse when the gorgeous honey scent reaches your nostrils.
Along the path where we normally spot lots of bees, butterflies and other interesting insects … today we saw just one brave moth! However, the trees were full of birdsong, which we enjoyed as we walked.
Soon we were approaching the river. The river has a smell of its own – earthy and distinctive. It rises high up on the moors and gathers its waters as it flows down through the wooded valley. In the part of the valley we were heading to today, the river runs through a rocky gorge and is fed by steep sided streams (we call them ‘burns’ up here in the north 😉 ).
This part of the river is known as ‘the crags’ as there are some substantial sandstone cliffs. It is amazing to think these rocks have been around about 300 million years! They were formed during the Upper Carboniferous period when our part of the world lay next to the equator and these rocks were part of a tropical swamp with huge primitive trees, tree ferns and dragonflies. Our sandstone crags are the remains of fossil soils.
I wouldn’t say it was tropical today – rather cool in fact! Though, even on hot sunny days it stays cool under the trees along the river. I love the coolness by the river. It is a tranquil and restful place – just what I needed today 🙂