Saturday, 26 December 2015

Of Mezereon and things

Well, that's Christmas over for another year. Chris and I enjoyed it and I hope all my friends did too. Now back to sanity. 

It has been remarkably mild over past few days and at this rate it shouldn't be long before nature begins to stir itself.  Although soil temperature can be important I consider, as I have previously remarked, that day-length is the most important factor in the vernal development of plants.

Some twenty or so years ago Chris and I went to Andorra on what was billed as a skiing trip, but we deliberately chose a late date in the expectation that the valleys and lower mountain slopes would be free of snow. We were rather thwarted in our plans as late, heavy snow arrived, but not before we had visited low ground and sought out some of the flowers.

Our solitary Mezereon specimen
26 December, 2015

I mention this because Mezereon, Daphne mezereum, was one of the plants we found in flower. I have always loved Mezereon for its early and intensely fragrant blooms, and when I checked our one specimen today the first, tentative flower had appeared. In a couple of weeks it should be wreathed in purple.

... and the solitary flower that has just appeared.
26 December, 2015
We have two species of Daphne native to Britain, the other one being D. laureola, common around Byfield. Mezereon is distinctly scarce but scattered colonies exist as far north as Yorkshire. The last time I referred to this species in a blog I opined that it was an extinct native of Northamtonshire, but I note that Gent and Wilson, in their 2012 flora of the county now cast doubt on that idea, and suspect the plant of being an introduction.

In fact this species was not recorded in the wild in Britain prior to 1752 so perhaps this presumed indigene is not a native at all; such a distinctive plant would surely not have been overlooked.

Be that as it may, I intend to cherish my plant and will probably remove it from its pot and give it a more prominent place in the front garden.

What of the coming year?

Santa, in the shape of my wife, bought me Steven Falk's recent superb book on British bees. Even though he is a excellent artist himself (I have one of his works hanging on the nearby wall as I compose this) 'Falky' has got Richard Lewington to do the illustrations - and very fine they are too. I understand that the first print run rapidly sold out and another is being produced. Not bad for a book of its type! Perhaps concern about the parlous state of some of our bees has kindled extra interest. 

Hitherto my records of bees from such places as Kentle Wood have been scant. There is now no reason why I shouldn't be able to greatly extend the list. 

With that project, and a number of others I have in mind, the months ahead should be quite exciting.

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