Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Katrina and I have just returned from a short break down in Cornwall. No binoculars, no social media (just as well as there was little wi-fi), although I did smuggle the compact camera with me, 'just in case'. Our trip was largely one of visiting relations, although we did manage one bracing walk across the sand dunes and cliff tops at Perranporth. There was one plant in particular that caught the eye across this most south-western county, and that was Alexanders (above).
This umbellifer does not naturally occur in the UK, but was brought over as a pot herb and vegetable by the Romans, then cultivated in monastery gardens. I remember reading once that where the Romans went, this Mediterranean plant was left in their wake. Today it is largely coastal, but can be found well inland, commonly in the south-west. I have rarely seen it in Surrey, and when I have it has always been in small numbers.
Because it is an early flowerer, the modest yellow-green flower heads shine out from the dark hedgerows amongst the sober winter colour palette. Along a stretch of bridleway that swept down to Perranporth beach it was by far the commonest species in flower.