Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rosebay Willowherb and Gatekeeper Butterfly

One of my favourite flowers grows alongside a bridleway near Preston (Herts). Today I sketched some rosebay willowherb that was growing up to around 8ft high amongst some bracken and brambles. The four petaled pale pink flowers with four deep magenta sepals form at the top of a long single stem that was pale green on the underside and a deep red on the upper or sun-facing side. The long slender leaves vary in shade from dark to lime green - often tinged with yellow and with bright red tips. The colours are very vivid if you look close up. The flower spikes reach up above me and when flowering has finished the 10cm or so long seed pods develop which gradually split open from the bottom of the flower spike upwards to reveal the tiny brown seeds on delicately thin silky threads (apparently up to 80,000 per plant). They seem to grown well here but I don't remember the soil having been disturbed for many years.

The brambles seem very rampant this year. The long, strong growing stems seem to be on a mission escape the hedgerow and arc out over the bridleway. The blackberries in front of me are still a deep red and only a few have begun to turn black. A gatekeeper butterfly lands on some of the flowers and sits long enough for me to take the attached photo.

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