August, Appalled by my Ignorance.
It dawned on me, as I walked along a tiny lane in Cumbria admiring the variety of plants bursting out of the thick hedges on either side, that I could only name a handful with any confidence. I knew Meadowsweet, Red Campion, Herb Robert and Honeysuckle and that was about it. So I decided to try and identify every flower that I came across. A lot of them were embarrassingly common, like Lesser Knapweed, and Hawkbit. Others were probably just as common but the names were new to me, like Hedge Woundwort and Wood Avens.
It was when I came across the deliciously named Enchanter’s Nightshade on a bank, where ten weeks ago I’d been drawing Bluebells, Violets and Primroses, that I realised I fallen under a spell. Visual as well as literary. Not only was each flower exquisitely beautiful, strange and unexpected when looked at in detail but their names are magical as well. They are plain English names, descriptive, creative and funny. I found Sneezewort, Purple Loosestrife and Yellow Rattle. My favourites were Devil’s Bit Scabious and Bog Asphodel and the completely fantastic Ramping Fumitory
By taking time to really look at and name each plant, you notice so much more. I’m appalled by my own ignorance. How could I have stumbled along in life, content to be only half aware of the brilliance of the flora under my nose? I now know that the moss covered oaks at the end of the lake, which I admire every time I walk through them are carpeted with Common Cow Wheat, which is fairly uncommon, and is the food for the caterpillar of the Heath Fritillary butterfly. It’s a new and utterly beguiling layer to add to the complex picture of the landscape around me.