With spring on the horizon, wildflowers talk gives a timely boost

A blaze of scarlet pimpernel (pic Christine Knight)

Itchy Coos, Jack Go to Bed at Noon, Bachelor’s Buttons, Day’s Eyes, Bread and Cheese, Granny’s Toenails, Stinking Roger…
An intriguing if not motley bunch, but all were revealed as alternative, colloquial, names for some of our more widespread plants during Christine Knight’s talk Wildflowers in Essex, presented on Wednesday last week (February 17).
Wildflowers are the love of her life, Christine told us as husband David (CPRE Essex chairman, of course) wriggled a little uncomfortably at the news.
It was a love (the flowers) that began when she was about 13 courtesy of an encounter with field madder during a biology lesson. The plant remains special to her and indeed now resides in her garden. However, the net has been cast far wider in Christine’s personal project to record all the wildflower species in her area of Essex.
Although most subjects of the talk could be found across the county, early focus fell on the oxlip, which in Essex occurs essentially only on Christine’s home turf. It’s always nice to have a little exclusivity…
Running through the year, familiar hazel catkins – a sure sign that spring is on its way – warmed our hearts, while the toxic dog’s mercury, the wood anemone (an indicator of ancient woodland) and blackthorn (if it’s still cold when it flowers, we have what is known as a blackthorn winter) were among those appearing alongside such Christine favourites as white dead-nettle, greater stitchwort and sainfoin.
Stinking Roger, incidentally, was not a favourite. Its standard name is black horehound… barely any better than the informal one.
A fantastic range of plants, together with identification tips, was featured and, whatever our level of knowledge, we all gained something. For example, I learnt that the green alkanet that covers too much of my garden has such deep roots I might struggle to remove it. But then, with it proving such a great attraction to bees and other insects, why should I want to?
Christine Knight, wildflowers and our most glorious of counties… a combination that made another superb evening with CPRE Essex. Of course, with The Guinness Book of Records sharing with us the fact that the world’s longest daisy chain was made in Essex, what else did you expect?

  • The next CPRE Essex talk, being held via Zoom, is titled Essex Pearls and is scheduled for Wednesday, March 3. If you would like to join us, please contact David Mairs at dmairs@cpre-essex.org.uk

    A field is brought alive by a riot of daisies and buttercups (pic Christine Knight)