Quantock Hills Blog

Spring is in the air

- Nic our ecologist and volunteer co ordinator has been out enjoying the joys of spring.

Nichola Penn

Posted by Nichola Penn on 29 April 2014

Spring is in the air I love this time of year; when everything comes alive and the greens are so vibrant. The days are getting longer and there is more time to be active, to get out into our lovely countryside. So I thought I’d share with you some of the wildlife awakenings I have spotted recently.

The larch is the only deciduous conifer that is native to central Europe.  It was introduced into Britain in the 17th Century and is now scattered far and wide across our landscape.  The reason I mention it is that they are beautiful at this time of year; their new needles are sprouting in bright green tufts and the female flowers (which will ripen into the brown cones once they are pollinated) are beautiful pink ‘larch roses’.  They can also be green or white but the pink ones look like raspberries dotted about on the sprouting twigs.

Other trees are gradually unfurling their leaves, the horse chestnut leaves are bursting out of their sticky buds, initially with their fingers closed, soon to open wide ready for the sunshine.  My personal favourite, the beech is starting to look green and vibrant. It looks its best just after the rain, the contrast of the dark smooth bark and the lime green leaves is fantastic.

The verges are being over taken by spring flowers; primroses, greater (and lesser) stitchwort, red campion, and cuckoo flower to name but a few.  Alexanders, once eaten in abundance (similar to angelica or parsley) is one of the first things of the year to flower near the sea, although they are everywhere now.  It has yellow-green flowers and was introduced to the UK by the Romans, who called it the ‘pot herb of Alexandria’ because every part of it is edible.

Not only are the plants coming alive after a long winter, so are the animals and birds, the invertebrates are emerging too.  Look out for the brimstone butterfly - unmissable flash of yellow on a warm day along with the peacocks and small tortoiseshells - a sure sign that summer is on its way.  We have just started to survey the butterflies around Fyne Court and Cothelstone Hill so if you see people walking along with their clipboards on a sunny day that is what they are looking for.

I was positive I heard a swallow a couple of weeks ago but didn’t spot it - they have been reported in Somerset though so listen out for their chattery calls, they won’t be long.

If you would like to join us on one of our events, follow this link to book on.  I will be running a Wildlflower Wander in June - date to be confirmed, so do come if this is something you are interested in.


Photo: cuckoo flower


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