Monday, 16 April 2018


As far as I can recall the first 'botanical' poem I learned was by Robert Bridges:

Thick on the woodland floor gay company shall be,
Primrose and Hyacinth and frail Anemone...

Born in Victorian times, Bridges would have been familiar with the scene he describes. By 'hyacinth' he meant of course the bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and here in the west of Northamptonshire we are fortunate to be home to some superb woodlands on the slightly acid soil these plants prefer.

Anemones are a different matter. They are still widespread and, in places, moderately plentiful, but I see them less regularly than bluebells. We only have one anemone native to Britain and that is the Wood Anemone, Anemone nemorosa, sometimes referred to as the Windflower. Of course the Pasque Flower was, until perhaps the 1970's, still called Anemone pulsatilla but now the only true Anemones we have growing in the wild apart from the Windflower are occasional garden escapes such as the Blue Anemone, A. apennina, the Balkan Anemone, A. blanda and the Yellow Anemone, A. ranunculoides.
Anemone blanda in a Daventry garden. 17 April, 2018
A couple of days ago I glimpsed a mass of Wood Anemones on a roadside bank near to Newnham windmill and today I returned to photograph them. Around a hundred plants or so clothed the bank, making a fine sight, but their status is a little enigmatic.
Wood Anemones cover many square metres of a bank near Newnham
windmill. 16 April, 2018
In their true wild state Wood Anemones are a pretty good indicator of ancient woodland so are we safe in assuming that woodland once covered this area?  Possibly. They could have spread from a few deliberate plantings of course but they produce very little viable seed and only spread rather slowly via root growth. It would have taken many years for a patch this large to have developed. I must make a few enquiries.
Anemones are in the Buttercup family, a curious mix of superficially quite different plants such as Delphiniums, Monkshoods, Clematis and Hellebores. Structurally the flower of the Wood Anemone looks like a white version of a Celandine, Ficaria verna - until one looks beneath the 'petals' to find that anemones have no sepals.
From above the Celandine flower looks rather like an anemone.
16 April, 2018
In nearby rather wet fields Celandines were common. Celandines were generally known, until recently, as Ranunculus ficaria. Along with many true buttercups they are often found in wet places, a habitat which may partly explain the use of the curious generic word 'ranunculus' - which means 'little frog'.

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