Two more indicators of seasonal change

Dear readers, I have two further events as mentioned in yesterday’s post. They are as follows.


I first witnessed a truly wild Primrose (Primula vulgaris) in flower on 7th January but as on other occasions, I have seen other varieties elsewhere, even in November and December this year just gone. However, if taking my 7th January date as gospel, my list of dates range from the certain Novembers or Decembers through to 2nd March. The adjusted mean date for all 16 records being 23rd January.

Primrose (Primula Vulgaris) in flower

Primrose with its vernacular name of “spinkie” or more appropriately “prima rosa” meaning first flower/first rose is always a welcome sight early in the season. In the past there were a very common sight and were picked profusely. However, numbers in the wild have dwindled a little but remain in good numbers in the right habitats. Having a scattered distribution, Primroses are seen in ancient woodlands or adorning hedge banks, and are often planted in gardens as they can be widely purchased. They also have a habit of colonising motorway embankments. They are able to self-pollinate, however bees and certain Lepidoptera will also help in this process.

In addition, Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was flowering locally for the first time on 7th January. The current range of dates extends from 21st December through to 13th March, this being based on 16 records. The adjusted mean date works out at 7th February, a full two weeks earlier than in Gilbert White’s day.

Lesser Celandine (Ranuncula ficaria) in flower

Gilbert White, the 18th Century naturalist quoted these delightful little yellow star-like flowers as blooming on average around 21st February. Like many other phenological indicators however, the current climate as per my figures above denotes otherwise. Lesser Celandines have possessed various names over the years. Known names have included “spring messengers” or “pilewort” and a Greek derivation of “chelidonia” meaning a “swallow” you can see the fondness associating with them. The swallow connection being especially bizarre as this migrant species arrives well after the Lesser Celandine has started flowering. Moreover, folk now believe this was misquoted as it were more likely associated with the unrelated Greater Celandine. Being another member of the Ranunculaceae – buttercup family, they are sometimes looked upon as weeds, which, can soon carpet many a meadow and field. Some farmers believe the plants to be responsible for poisoning cattle and sheep.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

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