25 April 2012

A snake in the grass

This month, the meadows begin to 'move' as days lengthen, the soil warms up and April showers and downpours provide welcome moisture. However, growth is slow, the 'spring flush' of grass is yet to take off. Early and low flowering species like barren strawberry, bugle and germander speedwell are still clearly visible and cowslips are often the tallest flowers in the meadows.
This is an ideal time to see Adder's tongue - Ophioglossum vulgatum. This curious low-growing fern  occurs in old, undisturbed grasslands - its simple, lime-green leaves often forming quite large colonies of no more than a few centimetres high. The sporangia from which spores are released arise from the centre of the leaf  like a snake's tongue - hence the name Adder's tongue.

5 April 2012

Blackthorn winter

The first week of April has brought a few hours of welcome rain, not enough to remedy the drought, but enough for the meadow grasses to begin to show signs of green. The rain has been followed by what always feels very typical of Suffolk spring weather - bright sunshine to draw us outside, but a keen north easterly wind to remind us not to leave our coats at home!
Cold snaps like this often seem to coincide with the Blackthorn flowering and the first cowslips opening - hence the expression 'Blackthorn or Cowslip Winter'. I don't know whether this is a Suffolk expression or one in wider usage - but it certainly seems to hold true most springs.
Another early flowering grassland plant in flower at the moment is field woodrush or as it is sometimes known 'Good Friday grass'. It certainly lives up to this name as you can invariably find it in flower on Good Friday despite the timing of Easter varying from year to year.