Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Red, Yellow and Blue


There a few spectacles in the British countryside that rival a field of poppies in full bloom. There are two fields at Warkworth on the Northumberland coast that are currently ablazed with these scarlet flowers. Like many plants, poppies produce seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for decades. They require light for germination, so only burst into life after they’ve been brought to the surface by the passing of a plough. Poppies belong to a group of arable weeds that includes corn chamomile, corn cockle, corn flower, corn marigold, bugloss and henbit whose flowering depends on regular soil disturbance, so they have always been a feature of agricultural landscapes since farming first began. In Victorian times all these species were very common, but the development of efficient seed cleaning technologies for cereal crop seed production and the advent of effective modern herbicides have removed them from fields so efficiently that many are now rare. Poppy’s vast seed output has been its salvation. Poppies survive seed burial for long periods and are often revived temporarily when new roads are cut through former agricultural land, or when grassland that was long ago planted with wheat and barley is freshly ploughed.


Behind the dunes at Warkworth, about half way to Alnmouth, there's currently another wonderful floral display in a patch of swampy ground. A single yellow flag iris (above) is a thing of beauty, but half an acre of them in full bloom is something else.......



And a little closer to Warkworth, in a corner of a field that has been left unplanted, there's the most stunning display of bugloss, a cornfield annual that occurs sporadically in the North east but here grows in such abundance that about a quarter of an acre is tinted with forget-me-knot blue.


We lament the fact that some individual wild flower species are becoming rare, but it's even more regrettable that massed floral spectacles like this, once common, are now few and far between...

10 comments:

  1. They do look spectacular Phil. And like you say, a great shame that this is becoming such a rare sight now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The field of poppis is breathtaking!I think it is the same all over the world- 'progress' has done away with beauty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, Phil! The field of poppies at Warkworth is magnificent. The other pictures here are lovely too, but the field of poppies ...

    I do love Yellow Flag and the Bugloss are a perfect blue.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thank you for sharing these!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting you mention Bugloss. In a field at Widdrington a few years ago the sandy soil was disturbed when a company was installing a mobile phone mast. Afterwards there were hundreds of Bugloss...the first time I had seen them in the area, also Musk thistle put in an appearance and never returned in subsequent years.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think this is probably the most spectacular display I've ever seen Keith..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi lotusleaf, when the common flowers become rare, then I think t really is time to worry...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Emma, I passed a couple more fields that were covered in scarlet near Corbridge on Wednesday, and there have been some spectacular displays near Houghton-le-Spring in Durham too

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Zoe, when you come across something as spectacular as this, to just have to tell everyone you meet, really and virtually, about it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Nigel, I always make a point of taking a look at patches of disturbed soil, just to see what comes up from buried seeds.... they're building a car park at work at the moment and the mounds of soil have bugloss and field pansy all over them. Haven't see musk thistle for quite a while - last time was down in Swaledale.

    ReplyDelete