April is the month when our deciduous woodland starts to really get green and leafy. The spring flowers burst forth in an eruption of colour before the woodland canopy blocks their sunlight. The woods are alive with the singing of birds and the buzzing of insects. The most obvious sign that you are in an ancient woodland in April is the carpet of blue bluebells, their drooping blooms nodding in the breeze. The English bluebells are unlike the Spanish or hybrid versions many of us have in our gardens. The English bluebell has all of its blooms on one side of the flower stem, causing the distinctive droop, the flowers are of a deeper blue and the pollen is creamy-white. The first image on the left is an English bluebell, whereas the image on the right is a Spanish bluebell.
Another blue flower that is starting to appear at this time is the Bugle, Ajuga reptans. This forms a blanket of slightly furry, green-with-purple bits leaves, and spikes of purple blue flowers. It is an important nectar plant for moths, butterflies, bumblebees and common carder bees. It is also known as “carpenter’s herb” due to its ability to slow bleeding, which it seems to do by lowering the pulse rate. Nicholas Culpeper, 17th century herbalist, had this to say about it, “An ointment made with the leaves of bugle … bruised and boiled in hog’s grease … is so singularly good for all sorts of hurts in the body, that none that know its usefulness will be without it.” Less beneficial to the poor hog though. Yet another blue flower popping up amongst the greenery is the confusingly named green alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. It is named for its leaves rather than flowers as sempervirens is Latin for evergreen. It is not a native British wildflower, but was imported from mainland Europe to be used in the making of red dye from its roots. The nectar is popular with bumblebees. Up on the grazing area of Credenhill Wood, out of the trees you get to see the sky properly. Being April, the skies are often interesting and moody. The breeze scuds the clouds along so you can never tell whether they will pause a while and rain on you.
I hope you enjoyed our bimble through the April woodland. See you next month.