Monday, 1 June 2015

Wild Pansies - a blue fest

Blue, white and yellow are a perfect mix for flower colour - to the human eye at least.
Have a look at Van Gogh's irises 

Yesterday was wild and windy, again, so not a day for the hills. Instead, I went out to Rattray Head in north-east Scotland, just to get out somewhere and have a look see, and as luck brings to those who do, the sun was shining on the headland. Sand dunes rise high at the head, hiding the lighthouse from view until seen through a gap or from the tops of the marram grass-covered dunes. And it was as I walked through the dunes that I noticed the ground change colour from pale yellow and green to bright blue. Wild pansies Viola tricolor had taken over a hollow.

The delicate flowers were bobbing at all angles in the wind

Wild pansies are also known by the popular name of heartsease, which gives a clue to their use in herbal remedies and their history in folklore. However, I have no knowledge of that so will stick to the their beauty and form. It is a grassland species and this stand was of about half an acre in the landward side of the sand dune system. There were numerous rabbits in the area, some even grazing in the open at mid-day, and they had cropped the grassland short. A soft sward had developed, allowing the pansies to form a mat, so it seems that the rabbits don't eat the plant's leaves. Herbal properties can be species specific.

Ranks and ranks of fresh faces with blue top petals 

I have never seen such an abundant spread of these flowers. Despite all the cool northerly winds, and the resultant retarded growth of so many plants this spring, it is good to see something thriving in these conditions. No matter the weather, it will be good for something, and this year, in the the north-east it has certainly been good for the pansies.

The short rabbit-clipped green grass made an excellent habitat for the flowers to show,
 in woodland grassland they are often crowded out by the grasses

Other animals in the area, which were benefiting from the rabbits' cropping, were meadow pipits, skylarks and a pair of stonechats, all catching insects on the short sward. And linnets were picking at seeds that were too small for me to see. The pipits were feeding large young in their nests and the female stonechat was incubating six eggs in her nest tucked into the dense base of a clump of marram.

A meadow pipit's view of the blue 

From a distance, the blue petals cast a gentle wash over the grassland, their intensity only became evident from within the hollow.

The pansies covered the floor of the hollow

And from a distance, the lighthouse shone white on blue.

The flowers even crept up to the top edge of the dunes,
 looking out over the lighthouse 

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