Back again in a very special place but with little expectation of finding many of the wildflowers that make the Lizard peninsula one of Britain’s botanical hotspots. We come here in the winter because it’s much cheaper and not crowded – it’s as simple as that – but in a month or two the great explosion of wildflowers will begin; some of them quite unique to this area. For now we were hoping to spot the earliest Celandines and perhaps one or two other bits and bobs that sometimes defy the season. John Wright; writer and forager doesn’t really rate this time of the year. We saw young shoots of Sea Beet and there are Jelly Ear fungi on some of the Elders but for foragers (I’m not one of them) he says January is a poor month and February is “much the same only worse” . For a while the Facebook site of the British Mycological Society has specialized in readers’ photographs of mouldy rice puddings and cakes. Most of the time it’s an amazingly useful resource for learning fungi. Yesterday we spotted lots of emerging young leaves – Cow Parsley was one, and one or two plants were even in flower; Gorse flowers in every month as does the Red Campion, if it can find a sheltered spot. Alexanders are in early leaf, seven or eight inches high and we spotted some lovely Narcissi, escaped from a garden. Not much need for the flower guide at this time of the year but if you like that kind of thing Poland and Clements have produced a very useful “Vegetative Key to the British Flora.” which – if you like quizzes will keep you amused for hours in the winter. We were just happy to be out in the cold wind and the sunshine.
As we walked down to Kynance Cove where the cafe was unexpectedly open I shared a lump of fruit cake with a Rock Pipit that was very nearly hand tame – so tame in fact that I wondered what bird it could be that looked so much like a Rock Pipit but which behaved more like a Robin.
Walking down I also caught sight of an unfamiliar plant that looked like Heather but just wasn’t right. I ignored it and we carried on down to the Cove’ but on the way back I paused and looked again and realized that perhaps I knew what it was – in one of those ways that you sometimes just know something without knowing how.
I’m taking a risk but I’ll say it’s probably Cornish Heath, Erica vagans; but I’ll readily concede to a better botanist. What’s exciting – if I’m right – is that it only really thrives here on the Serpentine rock of the Lizard. Checking on another website I see it can be found occasionally further up-country but it’s plentiful here on the Lizard and it’s one of Stace’s two star rarities. So (again, if I’m right,) we did manage to spot at least one local hero.
Which prompts a thought. We’re constantly reading about what a good thing it is to be out in nature. Now I know nature lights me up but I’m all too aware that a lot of people pass through it in search of an ice cream without noticing a thing. I don’t blame them because our whole culture teaches us from childhood that nature is lovely to look at, but not that we are a part of it. Naming other beings is far more important than cataloguing them. Each old plant friend we meet provokes a moment of recognition and reflection. Each greeting is a moment of meditation on the sheer diversity and beauty of the plant world. Could it be that the much written about benefits of nature are somehow related to the release of endorphins that comes with a meeting – “Hi I’m Dave, and I think you must be Erica vagans”. Cue warm surge! There must be a PhD that’s looked at this surely? Here are some more photos. The Alexanders on the top left has a kind of gall I don’t think I’ve ever seen before but I think it might be some kind of Phyllocoptes.