MARCH IS THE MONTH WHEN A LOT OF WILDFLOWERS COME INTO BLOOM, WITH THEIR BEAUTIFUL COLOURS AND FRAGRANCE.
One of the most common flowers that grace our native woodlands is the bluebell. There are two varieties of bluebells that are found within Swansea, the native ‘wild English’ and the Spanish. The primary differences between the two flowers are:
Most of the time in our woodlands you are likely to find the English variety, the native variety of the UK although in parks you are likely to find the Spanish variety which are commonly used for floral displays.
Nestled amongst the carpet of bluebells in our woodlands you will find the purple-pink flowers of the tall early purple orchid (pictured left). This is one of the earliest orchids to bloom and often found in woodlands although due to urban development and modern farming it’s not as abundant as it was many years ago – although it is still one of the most common orchids we see. We are very privileged in Swansea to be surrounded by wood-lands and parks where native flora can found.
It’s not just orchids and bluebells that bloom in March, other flowers that begin to emerge include – pictured above from left to right – wood anemone, common dog violet, red Campion, wood-sorrel, and lords-and-ladies.
Amongst these floral beauties we can find ingredients that are commonly used for food and great foraging plants to add to recipes. Ramsons (right) otherwise known as wild garlic can be found in a number of woodlands. They give off a distinguishing garlic scent and are not to be confused with lily-of-the-valley which when in flower can be distinguished from ramsons by its bell-shaped white flowers on a one-sided spike. It’s best to search for these plants once they are in flower as lily-of-the-valley is poisonous. Like ramsons, another plant found during spring which can be foraged is garlic mustard (pictured in circle below left), which is an invasive member of the mustard family. It produced overwintering rosettes of kidney shaped leaves and is net-veined with wavy margins; these leaves give off a pungent garlic or cabbage scent when crushed – if in doubt, give them a crush first.
Nettles (below left) are another commonly found foraging plant in our woodlands, however there is another flower that grows during the late springtime which is followed by a delicious treat – wild strawberries (below right). Although not as large as commercially produced fruit, these strawberries are miniature in comparison.
They can be found on grassy banks of limestone around Three Cliffs or the woodlands of Penllergaer and other woodland areas throughout Swansea.
As with any foraging, if in doubt it’s best not to pick. Foraging for wild fruits and plants to eat is a great way to be more involved with wildlife.
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