Friday, 1 August 2014

When blue can in fact be scarlet

The rare Blue Pimpernel
I have had an interest in arable flowers – those annual plants that rely on cultivation to allow them to germinate – since many, many moons ago I met Phil Wilson who was studying them as a subject for his PhD at the then Game Conservancy Trust. Dr. Phil as he became, would definitely be one of the first people that I would pick to be on my team to enter the pub general knowledge quiz! Not only is he a brilliant botanist, but he also has one of those minds that collects unbelievable amounts of knowledge on just about anything – the only problem might well be that often with botanical questions – he would answer using the Latin name – which would undoubtedly cause all sorts of ructions with the quiz master!

Because of Phil’s huge enthusiasm for this group of flowers, which he passed onto me, I now find it very difficult to walk past a “weedy” field corner or patch of poppies, without just checking that it does not also host a “rarity”.

Just the other day I was walking along the edge of the field that is adjacent to my house in central Hampshire, when I spotted a small blue flower growing at the edge of a cereal crop. Closer inspection revealed it to be a blue coloured Pimpernel. Now, this immediately created excitement and uncertainty, as the common Scarlet Pimpernel which abounds around here, can sometimes produce blue flowers too. So, had I come across a rare Blue Pimpernel or just a blue “Scarlet” Pimpernel?

While I was still observing them in the field – who should come racing into my mind – but Dr. Phil – he would be able to distinguish between the two!!! So, I took some photos as you can see and sent them off to the expert to be identified.

Well, the up-shot of all this is that it does appear that I have found two plants of the rare Blue Pimpernel – so how exciting is that!!  In Phil’s book – “Arable plants – a field guide” (published by Wild Guides) – a “must buy” if you want to get into this community of flowers - he states that the plant is nationally scarce.

It just goes to show what you can find on your local patch. I have walked along this field edge regularly over the years and either missed these flowers, or maybe the seeds have just been ploughed up to the surface this year from the seed bank, where they had been lying dormant in the soil. Either way – always keep your eyes peeled – as you never know what you might come across!

Scarlet Pimpernel and a blue Speedwell

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