Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Pasque pilgrimage

One of the Britain's rarest and loveliest wild flowers grows in Cambridgeshire, but I've never been lucky enough to see it growing in the wild – that is until today. Last summer a visitor to my studio let me into a secret, he told me where the Pasqueflowers grow on the Devil's Dyke.

Even though Cliff and I were weary after spending the whole day putting up new fencing along the boundary of a small addition to our garden (more about our 'wild wood' at another time) this evening while the rabbit casserole was cooking, we went on a pilgrimage to find the Pasqueflowers.

After a short walk we spotted some purple flowers nestling in the grass near the path along the top of the Dyke.



Pasqueflowers were first recorded growing on the Gog Magog Hills by John Ray, the son of a blacksmith and his wife – a herbalist, from Braintree in Essex; who studied and then lectured at Trinity College in Cambridge. While recovering from an illness he took long walks in the countryside around the town and was inspired to write his first book Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigian nascentium which was published in 1660. This small pocket book gave descriptions of 626 plants and their exact locations. This is the reason the Pasqueflower was selected as the County Flower of Cambridgeshire.


We sat on the steep grassy bank looking out over the farmland on one side and Newmaket Race-course on the other. Up close we could see just how beautiful the little purple flowers are - finely veined translucent petals; soft downy stalks and leaves; vivid yellow stamens. Shiny black pollen beetles scurried among the stamens.



According to legend, Pasqueflowers spring from the blood of Romans or Danes - their rarity and this story enhances their mystery. This myth seems believable because they like to grow on chalky ground with thin undisturbed soil, the few remaining sites are on ancient earthworks such as barrows and banks around hillforts, and on the Devil's Dyke - a thin strip of timeless wild-flower-jewelled turf.

14 comments:

  1. How lovely to see them grow wild.

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  2. Such beautiful flowers! How exciting that you got to finally see them in the wild. You have experienced a new energy in your area!

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  3. oh, oh, oh, breath taken away! As good as turning up Saxon treasure. Thank you for posting about wild pasque flowers-I have never seen them growing "native".Isn't it delightful to discover the jewels that decorate our countryside?

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  4. We have some planted in pots in our garden, but I have never seen them growing wild and had no idea about this story. They are exquisite.

    Glad to hear the wild garden is now yours!

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  5. How beautiful - I want to abandon my plans for studying this morning (you can see I'm already distracted!) and go for a walk to see pasqueflowers!

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  6. Looks like it is time for another trip to Devils Dyke! Thanks for sharing - I wouldn't have had a clue, otherwise.

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  7. Lovely to see them growing in the wild - they're so pretty!

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  8. I've seen them growing wild - they are so pretty. We have some in the garden - from seeds from a friend. If you'd like some seeds I can oblige!

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  9. how lovely--they slightly resemble a tulip with 'hair'.

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  10. They grow on Royston Heath as well, I had been thinking of going up to see if I can find them, you have spured me on to take a peep next weekend

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  11. Hi Joanne - I think it's always special to see flowers in their natural habitat - and let that influence how they may grow in your garden.

    Hi Dowhatyoulove - :-) maybe

    Hi Threadspider - I know you like wildflowers - this stretch of the DD is THE place!

    Hi Dottycookie - we've got the wild wood la-di-da-dah! about time!

    Hi Gina - oh dear! any displacement activity will do!

    Hi Organic Viking - then you can go to Reach for a pint!

    Hi Sarah & Jon - they're smaller and more delicate looking than when their grown in garden borders.

    Hi Veg Heaven - that's a tempting offer - thank you!

    Hi Petoskystone - hairy tulips! your're right!

    Hi Rhiannon - Hope you find them on Royston heath too. I think there are some ancient earthworks up there too.


    Celia
    x

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  12. oh these are wonderfull hairy creatures! These ones have such long stems compared to the ones that grow on our prairies. What a delight

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  13. every year I look forward to seeing them flower in my garden, a sign that Easter is here
    Jane

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  14. How lovely! Your pictures are amazing.

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