Wildflowers make the most of lockdown

During the Coronavirus lockdown, there have been many reports of wildlife returning to towns and cities. In our little corner of West Sussex, the main effect has been on the flora, specifically, the verges along our road which have not received their regular short-back-and-sides from the council mowers this year, allowing the wildflowers to do their thing for once.

Right outside our house is a tennis-court-sized patch of rough grass which at this time of year is usually rather uninteresting, just 4inches high and with few flowers. But with no mowing since March, dozens of species of wild plants have been able to flower for the first time in years… and they’re making the most of it.

Although there is nothing particularly rare growing here, it is remarkable how quickly the space has turned into a charming little wild-flower meadow. I captured these photos over a couple of evenings in the early half of June with the sun low in the sky, not 10 yards from the busy A259. There has been a call for councils to leave mowing until later in the year so that plants like these are given a chance to flower and seed every year. Lockdown has provided an unintended demonstration of how effective such a strategy could be.

Ox-Eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). The light in the ray-florets is beautiful, as are the details of the sepals at their base. (Worth clicking to see the full size image)

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Not much loved, as it is poisonous to cattle, but it makes a good subject for photography with its little golden crowns (coronas!) of nascent ray-florets — so charming and curious. See the little black dots at the base of every floret? Like dark jewels studding each regal headpiece.

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) again. A few days later, and the flowers have opened. It’s worth enlarging the image to see the fine details of the anthers and stamens, as well as get a better look at the visiting (longhorn? or soldier?) beetle!

Cut-leaf cranesbill (Geranium dissectum). The pink flowers over, the fine filagree foliage takes on bright red hues. The seed pods point upwards like the bills of cranes, apparently. As they dry, tension in the pods builds up until one day, suddenly, they snap and coil up — ping! — ejecting their seeds away catapult-fashion. You can see the spiral structure of one such spent ordinance top centre.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carrota). Most of the flowers in this umbel are white and green, but the outer ring of pink flowers really stood out.

White Clover(Trifolium repens). When you get in close, even the common white clover is a little world of wonder. This shot came out rather soft-focus, which gives the image a rather dreamy quality.

Meadow Foxtail grass (Alopocerus pratensis) – I think. Just beautiful, backlit at the peak of flowering.

Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) – Not a thistle. But like a thistle. The flower structure gets stranger the closer you look, with its violet tubes and purple petals, exploding out of a scaly coconut-hair ball.

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