Now is the time for all keen botanists to head to the hills. The Spring Gentian is a sight not to be missed and it is in flower now. This plant is an arctic-alpine species with very special requirements and grows in only a few places. It is easy to see inUpper Teesdale(Cow Green Reservoir) and on The Burren in the West of Ireland but the weather has to be bright as the flowers close up if there is insufficient sun.
The day we made our expedition was not promising and although it was May it was cold and windy with overcast skies. However, there were many plants, almost hidden in the grass with petals tightly closed. One or two flurries of snow dampened our spirits and we found some Bird’s Eye Primrose to photograph instead. A Golden Plover kept a wary eye on us from a distance and then flew away. Many other interesting plants grow in the reserve but few are in flower so early in such an inhospitable place. At length patience paid off and the skies brightened. The brief sunny spell was sufficient for several of the flowers to open and photographs were duly taken. They really are a startling blue and on a sunny day must be a wonderful sight. I imagine the Victorian botanists took a great many plants for herbaria but we are more enlightened nowadays and the plants are protected by law from humans and by fencing from rabbits.
A short walk to view Cauldron Snout is recommended and warmed us up on a cold day.
The Spring Gentian featured on a UK postage stamp in 1964.
by Christine Walsh, Botany volunteer