If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1
This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.
After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!
1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.
The rain wasn’t much good for anything today ….but cakes were munched, masks were found, pompom flowers were made (and will be all week) … but this little family loved being fed all those lovely grubs that wet weather brings…
Bad photo with phone, but didn’t want to get too close and frighten them off. come and see them tomorrow, they’re growing fast.
More family activities all week – 12-3pm
As well as some delightful period tulips and daffodils in the Gardens we have, this year, introduced the ‘wild tulip’ … the mummy of all those later fancy ones.
Tulipa sylvestris, known as the ‘wild’ or ‘florentine’ tulip is a species tulip noted ‘somewhere in Italy’ as early as 1594. Our suppliers Thomas Etty esq describes it thus
“Violet scented almond-shaped lemon yellow flowers in mid April. Naturalises well in grass. Said, by some, to have first travelled to these shores attached upon the roots of grape vines brought from Italy by the Romans.”
Volunteers have been deadheading the daffs along the Holly Walk bank revealing the wild tulips and allowing them to make their mark. A really special addition to the month.
Other varieties of note this year are;
- the jolly scarlet and yellow of Kaiserkroon (‘kings crown’) from 1620,
- the 16th century double white poeticus plenus and pheasants eye
- and of the later varieties we have sneaked in – Queen of the Night tulip (pre 1939) and Rinjveld’s Early Sensation daff., 1926.