All the lovely stupid flowers (part 3)

There’s a lot going on at the moment in the flowering world. Because I took myself a nice long Easter break, me and the family have explored several new areas that are close to home and also span a nice range of habitats. It is interesting to observe the range of specialization occurring in plants. Some flowers you will find pretty much everywhere, others are more adapted to specific systems.

Some of the plants that are very abundant in Bavaria, are rare to absent in any area in The Netherlands. Some others may occur widely here in Bavaria, but only commonly occur in The Netherlands as garden varieties, and as reintroduced horticultural ‘escapees’.

I have very mixed feelings about writing about plants. I may be an ecologist and know a fair bit about plants, but there is so much more I don’t know. I have so many questions. The more I look, the less I feel I know. So take my writing with a grain of salt. I’m still learning.

Here are some of the sometimes stupid – but always lovely flowers of this past week.

I bumped into a clump of these double-petaled snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) on the border of a community garden. My son, as usual, was quicker than me and picked this one before I could stop him. I had never seen these double ones before – not sure what to think of them…
European cornel (Cornus mas) started flowering around town earlier this week. This plant is otherwise tremendously unspectacular, but in the early days of spring they are pretty and provide good food for the earliest of pollinators flying around.
Purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum). A typical plant that you literally find everywhere, across habitats ranging from forests to meadows. I think it is rather pretty, even though it is so common. This one has a fly, so I could certainly not leave it out ;-).
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), or old-man-in-the-spring, which I believe is a literal translation of its latin name, is one of those noxious weeds that you find in temperate areas across the world. It’s not particularly pretty, and is toxic due to its pyrollizidine alkaloids. I never see many insects on them, but they supposedly share many specialized herbivores with their larger (and I think more toxic) cousin, Jacobaea vulgaris – which I have worked on for some time. They love disturbed areas, and indeed, this one was growing in my backyard in a disrupted corner behind the garage, where the previous tenant was indecisive about whether he wanted a paved terrace, a concrete slab, or a raised bed, and therefore went for a mixture of the three… I have no other explanation for this weird rubble patch in my otherwise rather natural garden. It does provide an additional habitat, so it’s alright.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have started flowering! This (again) is one of those weeds that has a bad rep, because they tend to turn lawns into sees of yellow (what’s wrong with that?). I love them and have worked with them for years. The cover page of my dissertation was a painting of a dandelion, and the original artwork (by Ali Elly Design) is framed on my living room wall. My work has shown that they create terrible soil conditions for their own kin, but also for other plant species. More so, their microbial soil ‘legacies’ make insects feeding on plants that grow in them consume less and hence grow worse. It might not look like much, but there is more than meets the eye with this one.
Easter flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris), extinct in The Netherlands, but occurring in specific habitats here. Mostly so in areas that have rather poor soil conditions.
You really have to get up close for this one. The spring draba (Draba verna). A super tiny member of the mustard family. I find these plants really pretty, especially with the leaves showing very nice purple colours on poor soils. They often barely peak through mossy and grassy patches. Most probably would probably not notice. So, I got on my belly and took a picture to give it some stage time here.
I think this one is ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea). Again, one of those common ones that people really detest to have in their lawns. Think again, look at those pretty purple flowers. Most Lamiaceae also have loads of nectar, so many wild bees and bumblebees love them.
I’m pretty sure someone just planted this Narcissus sp. in the floodplains of the Isar river. But what is a spring flower post without daffodils?
This parasitic Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) attracted a bumblebee queen (could it be Bombus pascuorum?) collecting ‘liquid strength’ to start a new colony.
A real tongue twister, the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa). Sometimes these beauties form vast carpets on the forest floor. Although it is very common here, I have yet to find a large carpet. They are rather patchy in this area. Pictured is the largest patch I have seen, probably one and a half square metres in size.
Corydalis cava, or bulbous corydalis, is also rather common here in Bavaria on forest floors. This one was part of a large carpet close to Kelheim. Patches tend to spread via the belowground rhizomes (which are apparently hollow, but I haven’t checked), but seeds are dispersed by ants. What’s interesting about this species is that flowers in the same population are about 50-50 white and purple. Pictured is the purple one (but I think that is rather obvious). This species does not occur in The Netherlands, although it is used as a garden perennial, and may have escaped here and there, as some of them tend to do…

That’s enough colour for today. More next week 🙂

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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