On Saturday evening we strolled along the Devil's Dyke, you may have seen Silverpebble's post about the morning stroll from her cottage to the western end of the Dyke. We live nearer to the eastern end of the 7.5 mile Saxon ditch and bank, near the precious site where the Pasqueflowers (pulsatilla vulgaris) grow. Were they blooming once again? I blogged about them last year on 19th April, then there were many healthy plants; this year the plants are smaller from lack of moisture and many flowers are yet to open.
On the south facing chalk bank, in little scrapes made by the local bunnies, there were clusters of the purple flowers, they looked as if they were sheltering from the cold evening breeze.
Up close you can see the petals, sepals and stalk are covered with soft downy hairs.
The Pasqueflower wasn't the only purple patch on the grassy bank. Here is another special flower that is rare in our part of the world, the Hairy Violet (viola hirta). It is unscented and flowers slightly later than the Sweet Violet, it also likes to grow in open grassy places rather than shady hedgerows. The Hairy Violet makes beautiful tuffets of bright green leaves and blue-mauve flowers.
Ground Ivy (glechoma hederacea) is a common plant, we have lots in our lawn! On the Devil's Dyke the plants are stunted and nestle in the turf. It is a potent (and toxic) herb and over the centuries has been used to treat many conditions, it was used to curdle milk for cheese making and in Saxon times Ground Ivy leaves were used to add a bitter note to beer – that's a good a reason as any to find it growing on a Saxon defensive earthwork. The flowers have beautiful speckled throats and the leaves take on a rusty redness when they grow on the thin dry chalk soil.
This final purple splash is tiny, so teeny weeny you need to be very observant to spot it . . . Milkwort (glaux vulgaris). I had to crawl down the precipitous bank and cling on with my toes to take this photo! It's an exquisitely pretty flower that has a clean fresh appearance, the colour varies from white, pink and mauve to blue. This one reminded me of the pure blue pigments use on medieval illuminated manuscript pages.
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