Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Aconites


I found these winter aconites Eranthis hyemalis just coming into bloom near Wolsingham in Weardale yesterday, amongst trees beside a stream. I've known them from this spot for 35 years and they must have been planted there long before that. I've tried to establish them in my own garden on a few ocasions with no success - maybe they need a little more neglect and some sheep hooves to churn up the soil in winter...



They come from southern Europe but are well naturalised in quite a few places around here. I've seen them in hedgerows in the Tyne valley, near Corbridge.


These early flowers are a little weather-beaten. They are unusual because the structures that look like yellow petals are really coloured sepals and the real petals are reduced to small, rolled-up green tubes that fill with nectar, located within the flower below the stamens - you can see one clearly at the 5 o'clock position in this photo. Hellebores, which are fellow members of the buttercup family, have a similar floral arrangement. Both are early bloomers so I imagine that these 'vases' of nectar have evolved to lure the few pollinators that are around on early spring days, on the lookout for an energy top-up....

8 comments:

  1. A sight for sore eyes! Aconite is used in homeopathy in miniscule quantities.
    Thanks, Phil, for telling me the difference between toads and frogs.

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    1. I think that a lot of plants in the buttercup family contain toxic compounds that can be therapeutic at low concentrations, lotusleaf.

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  2. Seeing these really brighten up a miserable, dull winters day.

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  3. Just what I needed to see today. Gosh it is so miserable weather-wise.

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    1. Dull and wet here too toffeeapple. Looking forward to spring....

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  4. The Winter Acconite don't seem to be showing here yet. Like you I have tried to grow some at home but without success.

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  5. Judging from these, John, they seem to grow best when there isn't much competition from surrounding plants...

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