You don’t always have to wander very far in order to find joy in beautiful things. Place your feet outside your front door and simply walk, and who knows what you’ll discover?
There is a lane leading away from the village where I live. At this time of year it doesn’t look very interesting at a first glance, even on a sunny, blue-skied day. Here it is – it’s just an old bridleway, lined by hedges, trees and fields. A single splash of gorse invites you in.
But, of course, peer a bit closer and there are many, many things to see. A Seven-spot ladybird was scurrying across the ground. Nearby a hoverfly perched on a leaf, basking in the warm sunshine. I saw my first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year – two of them in fact, guarding their territorial boundaries fiercely. They were spiralling across my path, both on the way out and the way back. I love these feisty butterflies, determined as they are to see off all-comers, from other Speckled Woods to humans. Common Dog-violets were poking out of the grass and Lesser Celandine flowers were cheerfully opening out to the sun. Both Gorse and Red Campion were out, but is there a season when they’re not?
I also spotted what I at first thought was Yellow Archangel, a plant of ancient woodland, but then noticed it had variegated leaves, making it a garden variety – sometimes known as Aluminium Archangel – which is invasive so nothing like as welcome in the wild as our native species. You can see the variegation pattern on the leaves in the photograph. Find out more about the problems it can cause here.
The flowers are just like the native species, however – they manage to be both lovely and rather weird. Look at the photo and you’ll see the round yellow blobs – these are actually the flower buds. When open, each flower has a ‘hood’ and a lower ‘lip’, the latter of which has brown stripy markings. These have a purpose – just as markings and lights on an airport runway guide planes into land, so the Archangel flower’s markings guide honeybees into the nectar at their centre, collecting pollen along the way.
Neither the wild nor garden forms of Archangel are supposed (according to my flower key) to bloom until May, but it is very warm and this is Cornwall…
Next time I spot Yellow Archangel, I hope it’s our British species. In the meantime, here’s a combative Speckled Wood glaring sidelong at my camera.