It certainly has felt like we’ve had our fair portion of winter this year but whilst you’ve been out on your daily exercise recently you may have noticed that there are hints of Spring glimmering in the woodland or parkland near you.
At Panshanger Park the snowdrops are in full fling, welcoming the first warmth in the sunlight filtering through the still bare trees. Interestingly, the term snowdrop was originally named after earrings and not snow! Although their Latin name ‘Galanthus nivalis’ means ‘milk flower of the snow’. Even though they feel to be a principal sign of Spring they aren’t actually a plant native to the UK. They were fashionable to plant during the Victorian era so perhaps the ones at Panshanger spread from the ornamental terrace garden at Panshanger House?
When the cheerful daffodils add their brightness, they are heralding the start of Spring and the bustling liveliness it brings to our natural spaces. As we see the transition into Spring you might also see the tips of the bluebells peeking optimistically through the leaf litter.
Over half of the world’s bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are found in UK woodlands- not to be confused with the Spanish bluebell which is actually invasive in the UK. Our native bluebells are relatively small and prefer the dappled sunlight in deciduous woodland. The Spanish bluebells grow faster and larger and stand more upright than their delicately nodding cousin.
Folklore goes that bluebells ring at daybreak to encourage fairies to the woods! We may not hear them physically tinkling but they are definitely indicators to ring in Spring to our local natural spaces. Lady Hughes wood has many bluebells which create a splendid purply-blue carpet in contrast to the surrounding trees.
As well as cheering us up, all these Spring flowers provide much needed food sources of nectar when other flowers are still in relatively short supply. These help pollinators such as bees and the early butterflies to get the energy they need.
Spending some time in your local area outside and enjoying Spring flowers is a real mood booster. If you are able to visit Panshanger then please remember to adhere to local government restrictions, keep to the paths marked out throughout the park and leave the flowers as you find them. The flowers are all very delicate and if picked or trampled their growth is restricted or they die back completely. Enjoying these colourful scenes from afar will help protect the flowers as well as allowing them to be enjoyed by the many other visitors to the park.
Jo Whitaker is the Panshanger Park People and Wildlife Officer.
She works for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and her role is funded by Tarmac.