The snowdrops are over, and what a wonderful display they have been. So what should we expect to see next? Well, the bluebells are coming through and will soon be flowering. Their pointed leaves push through the leaf litter on the woodland floor and then grow rapidly on reaching the light. Bluebells, along with wood anemones, need light so there is always a race to finish flowering before the canopy closes over. The white star-shaped flowers of the wood anemone (sometimes called Windflower) open up in sunlight and close when the sun isn’t shining.
Primroses are another token of spring. The name comes from ‘prima rosa’ – the first flower of the year. They were Disraeli’s favourite flower and on Primrose Day (19th April) a posy of primroses is placed on his grave. Most primroses have two types of flowers on separate plants. One kind is ‘pin-eyed’ which has a long visible stigma with the stamens hidden below in the tube. The other is ‘thrum-eyed’ which has long stamens visible with the stigma hidden below. This strategy prevents self-pollination.
Other woodland plants are ramsons (wild garlic) and dog’s mercury. Both create large swathes of plants but have slightly different soil requirements. Wild garlic, with its white flowers and distinctive aroma grows in moist woods on rich soils while dog’s mercury, with its separate male and female flowers, prefers well-drained soil.
Following on from the early spring flowers will be violets, red campion, yellow archangel and foxglove. In the lower Anthill Meadow cowslips will be followed by Common Spotted orchids. The Common Spotted orchid is distinguished by having transversely elongated purple spots on its leaves.
The grassland on Earl’s Hill is renowned for its spring ephemerals. These are warmth-loving winter annuals which germinate in the autumn, pass the winter in the vegetative state, then flower, set seed and die in the following spring or early summer. Plants such as early hair-grass, small cudweed, changing forget-me-not and shepherd’s cress thrive on the eastern and southern slopes of the Hill.illHHill
In May and June botanical surveys will take place to assess the condition of certain areas of grassland on Earl’s Hill.
Birds: The months of April and May herald the return of summer migrants that nest on the reserve. Look and listen out for the small Pied Flycatcher down by the Habberley Brook. Also Redstarts, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and the Chiff Chaff with its recognisable call.
Of course, spring is the time for lambing, so by mid-April we should see lambs gambolling around – cue to take extra care when walking your dogs!
Friends of Pontesford and Earl’s Hill.