Friday, January 26, 2007

Radnor's own flower

A long wait for anything new and therefore well worth a longish drive to the only UK site for Gagea bohemica in Wales.

Howard Parsons and I set out soon after 8.00 am on the 25th January to meet the warden, Andrew Ferguson at the site, having been told by him earlier in the week that a few flowers were now out. It was invaluable having Andrew there to tell us the background and warn us how to avoid damaging the environment in our enthusiasm.

It turns out that "few flowers" does not mean "few plants" as the vast majority of the plants do not flower. The flower was overlooked by Victorian botanists (probably because they botanized in the months when G. bohemica is not visible at all (even leaves). The leaves, even when they are about, are very thin and insignificant.

It's a species which is able to exploit pockets of thin soil on acidic rocks where the likelihood of dessication in the summer is great. Reproduction is largely by bulbils that tend to form in most plants instead of a flowering stem and there is even doubt whether the plant can set seed. The species also grows in isolated sites in Europe - but with significant variations between the sites. A species for which there is more to learn !

We were lucky enough to visit two flowering locations - one easy with the flowers not fully out (despite waiting an hour for midday sun to coax them) and a perilous (ish) location high up at the reserve with two fully open flowers.

Notes on Gagea