March Flowers

March Flowers

At the moment, in late March, two attractive garden plants are  in flower – the Garden Anemone and the popular Wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ . Two trees have also recently come into flower – the Wild Cherry and the Norway Maple. Some early flowering cherries may already be in flower but late frosts may spoil the blossom.

 

garden anemone flower

The Garden Anemone  is a species native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the Buttercup family and has the typical flower of that family. The flower is insect pollinated and provides large amounts of pollen from its numerous dark purple anthers. The flower shown here is a hybrid “Sylphide’ one of the De Caen group of hybrids sold as Garden Poppies. 

 

wallflower flower

The Wallflower Bowles’s Mauve’  is a sterile, short-lived shrubby perennial that can be propagated from cuttings and is very attractive to butterflies. This is one of the most popular wallflower cultivars. Wallflowers are members of the Cabbage family in which flowers have 4 petals in the form of a cross, hence the old Latin name for the family of  Cruciferae.

wild cherry flowers

The Wild Cherry Prunus avium is a tree native to Britain, Western Europe to the Caucasus, the Middle East, and North Africa. The flowers, produced by one bud, are in the form of an umbel in which all flowers come from one point. The Wild Cherry  is the species  from which all the flowering cherries are derived. See this previous post for more information on cherries.

norway maple flowers

The Norway Maple is a tree native to Europe, from Scandinavia to the Caucasus. It was introduced to Britain in 1683 and is now commonly found in gardens, streets and parks. It is one of the first trees to look green in spring, when its green flowers, shown above, open before the leaves. 

Pears

Pears

Two species of Pear are coming into flower now,  the Common Pear and the Callery Pear. Both have identical white flowers. They can be confused at a distance with the Crab Apple but they flower 2 to 4 weeks before the Apple. 

Common Pear tree

The Common Pear Pyrus communis is native to Europe and the Middle East. It was probably introduced to Britain but now grows wild usually as an isolated tree but  has also been planted in  parks, orchards and gardens.  It is a large tree from which most of the cultivated pears have been developed. There are thousands of varieties in cultivation such as ‘Conference’ – the most popular commercial variety in Britain and ‘Doyenne du Comice’ developed in France. More than 3000 cultivated varieties have been developed, based on just a few wild species.

Callery Pear tree

The Callery Pear is native to China and Vietnam. It was introduced to Britain in 1908. In the form of one of its cultivars ‘Chanticleer’, this ornamental pear can now be found on many streets. It is compact, flowers early and has a very late autumn colour. Its fruit is small, hard and insignificant.

Common Pear flowers

The flowers emerge along with the first leaves and are about one inch across. The flowers come out at the end of March or early April. Each flower has 5 white petals, numerous red  anthers and 5 yellow stigmas. In this photo, taken in March 2019 the anthers of the flowers at the top are red but dark purple after releasing pollen in flowers lower down.

Common Pear flower

When the flowers open, the stamens with their red anthers are bent inward and do not reach the height of the yellow stigmas. The stigmas become receptive before the anthers release their pollen, and as the stamens mature they straighten, placing the anthers at the same height as the stigmas. At this point, the anthers release their pollen and  turn dark red. The flowers are pollinated by various flies and bees but will self-pollinate if none are about. This photo was taken at the end of March 2019. Th learn more about pollination and flower parts click here

Common Pear fruit
In this photo, taken in May, the ovary has started to grow into a fruit called a Pome.  The petals have now withered along with the anthers and styles. 
Common Pear fruit

In this photo, taken in July, the fruit is almost ready to be picked.

Violets and Pansies

Violets and Pansies

Violets and Pansies are members of the Viola genus which is in  the Violet family Violaceae. Viola is the ancient Latin name for the  Sweet Violet   Viola odorata used by the Greeks to make perfumes and the Romans to make wine. It has a very distinctive scent which is still used today in perfumes. The Common Dog Violet is in flower now.  Garden pansies are hybrids of several species, including the Wild Pansy Viola tricolor. Text and images are taken from the new eBook ‘Flowers’ which was published recently. Click on this link for more information on the eBook.

common dog violet flowers

The Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana is a wild flower native to Britain. It flowers from March to May and is found in woods, grassy places, gardens and mountains. Its flowers are very small and easily missed.  Its flower is complex with a nectar spur to attract pollinators.

The tiny flower is remarkably complex. The flower has 5 unequal sized  petals – a front petal with a long grey spur behind it, 2 petals either side  and 2 petals above.   Secreted nectar collects in the petal spur.  When a pollinator, such as a bumble bee,  alights on the front petal and extends its proboscis towards the nectar in the petal spur it inadvertently touches the reproductive parts and pollinates the flower. A complex arrangement of anthers and stigma prevents self-pollination.

wild pansy flower

The Wild Pansy Viola tricolor is a native wild flower found growing throughout Britain on field margins and short grasslands. It is also common throughout Europe as far as the Caucasus. It flowers from May to September and is pollinated by long-tongued bees. It is also known as Heartsease and referred to by Shakespeare as a pansy. The flower has 5 petals, 2 blue upper and 3 white/yellow lower and has nectaries in a spur. 

garden pansy flower

The Garden Pansy Viola x wittrockiana is a hybrid of several viola species, including the wild pansy. It was created in the 1830s in Britain and named after a Swedish botanist. It has 2 upper petals, 2 side petals and one large lower petal. They are treated as hardy annuals although they are biennials and will produce seed in their second year. Generally they are grown from seed and planted out in the second year, then discarded.

Primroses

Primroses

The Primula genus of over 500 species includes the Wild Primrose Primula vulgaris and the Cowslip Primula veris. Both species are in flower now, in mid March. A natural hybrid between these two species is the False Oxlip (P. veris x vulgaris). It has been used to create a huge number of brightly coloured hybrids and varieties which are border perennials and rockery plants with the common name Polyanthus and the scientific name Primula variabilis. There are also a number of Primula species and cultivars imported from Japan. The Primula genus is a member of the Primrose Family – Primulaceae. Go to this link to get more information

wild primrose flowers

Primrose Primula vulgaris  is a common, native wild flower found across Britain in woods and hedge-banks. It is also  found in Western Europe, North Africa and Turkey. It normally flowers from March to May. It often grows close to the base of a tree. Although Primrose and Cowslip flowers look simple they have been the subject of a huge amount of study because populations have two morphs – known as  ‘pin-eyed’ (long style) and ‘thrum-eyed’ (short-style). This is known as heterostyly. If you want to know a lot more about this click here but be warned, it is a complex subject that puzzled Darwin!

cowslip flowers

Cowslip Primula veris has multiple flowers on one stalk arranged in an umbel. A less-common native wild flower found across Britain in meadows and pastures and in Europe and temperate Asia. It normally flowers from April to May but this year is already in flower in a few places. In old meadows it can be prolific in April.

bird's-eye primrose flowers

Bird’s-eye Primrose Primula farinosa is a rarer native wild flower found in damp meadows on limestone in Northern England, Europe and Asia. It flowers from May to June.

polyanthus crescendo wine flowers

Primula ‘Crescendo Wine’ is a popular Polyanthus 

japanese primrose flowers

Japanese Primrose Primula japonica is a species native to Japan. It was introduced to Britain in 1871 by Robert Fortune, the Scottish botanist.

Japanese Primrose 'Miller's Crimson’ flowers

Japanese Primrose ‘Miller’s Crimson’  is a popular cultivar.

Wych Elm flowers and fruit

Wych Elm flowers and fruit

Normally the Wych Elm Ulmus glabra produces flowers in March and  fruit  in April before the leaves. This year the fruit is already on the tree in early March. The fruit is bright green when formed but turns yellow and is shed in May and June. The Wych Elm is native to Britain and recognised by its very large leaves. It grows well in upland areas and is common in Scotland. It is susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease but isolated old trees or clumps of trees still survive. It is the mature  elm you are most likely to see.

Wych Elm in March

This photo shows a Wych Elm tree in March. 

Wych Elm fruit

At first sight the tree appears to be in leaf but, as this close-up photo shows, the branches are actually covered in fruit which is in the form of winged seeds called samaras.

wych Elm flower male phase

A close-up of a cluster of flowers at the end of March. The flowers come out before the leaves. The flowers of all Elms are wind pollinated so do not have colourful petals to attract insects. There are 8 to 10 flowers in each cluster. Each flower has male and female parts. The male dark red anthers stick out from the female ovary which can’t be seen in this photo. The anthers split open to release pollen onto the wind before the female stigmas are receptive to avoid self-pollination. There are usually 4 anthers per flower. 

Wych Elm fruit

Close-up of the fruit which has formed from the ovary 3 weeks later. At the tip of each flat fruit are the remains of the 2 pink styles. The seeds of the wych elm are surrounded by a flat wing to help wind dispersion. A winged seed of this type is called a samara by botanists. Photo taken in mid April.

Wych Elm fruit in April

Fruit in April

Wych Elm fruit in June

Fruit in June