Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter flower

LS said you haven't been writing much and I said that is true but life is quiet at the moment but yesterday (Easter Sunday) we went a walk round our urban area, the place is alive with all the white and pink blossoms of individual planting and council planting (Chelmsford has acres of  green verges and trees) the yellow of forsthyia and mock orange blossom.  But taking a small footpath I spied a lone pasque flower sitting miserably in the grass* of a neglected garden, maybe left over from when the area was more wild and houseless.  I of course exclaimed excitedly look the Easter pasque flower and today looked it up in Geoffrey Grigson. He says "has a fair claim to being the most dramatically and exotically beautiful of all English Plants and then goes on to give Gerard's description of this Eastertide flower..
"The first of these Passe flowers have many small leaves finely cut or jagged, like those of carrots; among which rise up naked stalkes, rough and hairie; whereupon do grow beautiful flowers bell fashion of a bright delaide purple; in the bottom thereof groweth a tuft of yellow thrums(stamen) and in the middle of the thrums thrusteth a small purple pointell;  when the wholemis past there succeedeth an head or knoppe, of many graie lockes, and in the solid ports of the knops lieth the seede flat and hoarie, every seede having his own small haire at it"
Pasque flower; taken from the Creative Commons
It was also known as Dane's Blood or Dane's Flower, this because of its unusual beauty, the flowers appeared on the great earthworks of the Devil's Dyke and Fleam Dyke; dykes associated with the Danes; and of course as the area around East Anglia.

Which led me to look up a flower I used to see on the Somerset downs, the harebell, belonging to my favourite group of flowers the Campanula or bellflowers, and with such a name plenty from Grigson on this delicate pale blue flower of summer.
"Bluebell of Scotland or not, it was aslo the Old Man's Bell, the devil's bell, which was not to be picked, the Witch Bell, the Cuckoo's Thimble, and in Gaelic the Cuckoo's Shoe, brog na cubhaig. In Ireland this fine etched plant is sometimes mearcan puca ,  thimble of the puca* or goblin and it was a fairy plant in the South-West of England and of course the hare" (which has so much folklore and is also an Easter/witch animal).  The Englishman's Flora - Geoffrey Grigson.

Harebells - campanula rotundifolia. On the Lansdown where you can also find hares if you are lucky. 

 The word Puca/Goblin can also be found in Somerset 'Pucklechurch' a large village of Saxon origin, and an old well on the Lansdown Puca Well...
Apparently the nettle leaved bellflower - Campanula trachelium, which I found  once in Ebbor Gorge should according to Gerard be called the Cantebury Bell (Campanula medium), a name which possibly referred to the horse bells which tinkled as the pilgrims rode to the shrine of St.Thomas a Becket...

Nettle bellflower

Campanula - cantebury bell

*Grass: There is a suggestion in the Saturday Guardian, that grass should be got rid of or taxed, this is because lawns are seen as relatively useless and take up the scarce water resources we are experiencing at the moment.


  1. I have only seen Pasque flowers growing in the wild when I lived (and rode) in the area between Salisbury and Downton. They are SO beautiful (as are the Harebells which also grew on the same site in their season. What an interesting post - I must try and get a Grigson some day.

    Hmm. Getting rid of grass? That reminds me of what the poor Chinese people had to do at the time of Mao. Digging it up to show that they were using every waking moment of their time when not working? I seem to remember that from The Wild Swans . . . TAXING it is of course a MUCH better decision.

  2. LS does not approve of removing grass either ;) It has started me off this plant blog. Every time I dip into that book reminds me what a fascinating (at least to me) thing history is as you begin to delve.

  3. Would you believe that a lady we met at the car boot sale (!) and has visited here to collect her large purchase, is keen to save wild flower seeds for an area which is being decimated (in Somerset) so I have agreed to help her cause. I didn't realize that you too were so keen on botany. I shall quiz you next time we meet!