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Friday, August 19, 2022

Field Journal: These public ritual flowers are full of wild beauty

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Attingham, Shropshire: Although they all look more or less the same, bluebells have subtle nuances of shape and color.

Galanthophile – an enthusiastic acolyte, processing, attached dog, in the rites of spring, with hidden knowledge, enchanted, gathering photographs of woods bleached with bluebells. Galanthus (milk flower) is the botanical genus that contains about 20 species of snowdrops native to Europe and the Middle East. From just a few species that grow widely, there are hundreds of varieties named to excite galantophiles.

In Attingham Park, the signs say that there are only two types of snowdrops blooming in the woods: Galanthus elwesii the largest snowdrop stretching from the Ukraine through Turkey to Syria; other galanthus nivalis, Flore Pleno – A double-flowered form of the common snowdrop found throughout Europe except the far north. This double form has a small original flower with a mess in the middle of its petal-like structure and parts are missing.

Flore Pleno is usually sterile and cannot form seeds, but produces a large amount of pollen that can reach the general population and hybridize with other g nivalis plants can also cross the line with other bluebell species. In the 1990s, a double form of G. elwesii it was found in Shropshire and named Godfrey Owen, after Margaret Owen’s husband who discovered it.

Although they all look more or less the same, bluebells have subtle nuances in the shape and color of the flowers, there are green and yellow, differences in the size and color of the leaves, flowering times. They invite the curiosity of lovers to discover the small signifiers of a much larger story. Although the narrative of bluebells is always framed by references to when they were first cultivated or mentioned in literature and the assumption that they are not indigenous or perhaps native, what is important is not their legitimacy but their presence.

Whether spread by streams, floods, nuns, gardeners or stately home owners like here in Attingham, snowdrops are steeped in wild beauty in the history of culture and cultivation. They have become a flower of public ritual. They fade, to fade into seasonal amnesia, until the end of the next winter when the galantophile within us is awakened.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary


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