Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Spring Blossom

When the spring weather turns from sun to showers and the wind drives you indoors - it is lovely to continue to enjoy some seasonal beauty, and one of my favourites is Blackthorn Blossom.  It looks much the best out on the branches - but so pretty close up too.  The contrast of dark brown stems, and the froths of white flowers are enchanting in a vase.

The beautiful white blossom tends to appear early in the year before the leaves. The single, white flowers are among the first to be seen in hedgerows and their appearance often seems to coincide with a period of bad weather, the so-called 'blackthorn winter'.

There is a thought that bringing the Blossom into the house is unlucky - this thorny native plant (also known as Snag) has much folklore surrounding it, but is wonderful for wildlife.  The blossoms, 'heralds of spring', attract a range of early insects to pollinate them.  The flowers produce nectar for bumblebees and early-flying Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.

When the leaves appear they provide food for the larvae of Black and Brown Hairstreak butterflies. The tree is also the food plant for the caterpillars of the following moths - March, Common Emerald, Little Emerald, Mottle Pug, Feathered Thorn, Orange, Scalloped Hazel, Scalloped Oak, Swallowtailed, Brimstone, August Thorn, Early Thorn, Pale Brindled Beauty, Blue Bordered Carpet, Broken Barred Carpet, November, Pale November, Winter, Sloe Pug, Green Pug, Sharp Angled Peacock and The Magpie.

Blackthorn is also very valuable to birds as a nesting site. Blackbird, Song Thrush, Finches, Common Whitethroat and Wood Pigeon are among the more common users.

Really enough of a claim to fame already, and we haven't begun to talk of the wood, or that it is related to the plum and produces bitter fruit, that we know as sloes (eaten since Neolithic times!) and you can dry the leaves and use as a substitute for tea, and ...    Perhaps it should be known as 'Wonder-Snag'!

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