April flowers

The riverbanks are full of red campion, white dead-nettle, cow parsley, and hawthorn blossom. I barely notice hawthorn all year then suddenly these columns of creamy froth appear like friendly flower aliens beamed down from outer space. No wonder the colloquial name for hawthorn is often the May tree. I have read that the saying “Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May is out” actually refers to the hawthorn flowering rather than the month, which makes a lot of sense as staying in your winter clothes until the end of May always seems particularly risk averse to me.

So spring is here! If I were in any doubt I spotted some cuckoo flowers last week. The cuckoo flower is so called because its flowers are supposed to bloom when the first cuckoo arrives. I have never heard a cuckoo and thought I’d never seen a cuckoo flower either, but have realised where I’d been going wrong. The flower guides describe it as a pink flower but from a distance I would say it looked white, and only had a mauve tinge on closer inspection.

Here are Margaret Erksine Wilson’s beautiful illustrations of hawthorn (which she calls ‘May’), red campion (which isn’t really red but pink), and archangel (which is another name for white dead-nettle but Margaret’s looks more like the yellow variety).

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