by Paul Cormacain
OTHERS have noticed a phenomenon in the past concerning Arum maculatum, and it is this. The flowers may be large and brightly coloured, but they are difficult to see when blooming.
At the end of the flowers' life the fertilised female flowers transform into red berries, and suddenly they become hugely visible. When I heard of this in the past, it seemed to me that this was something for others. Never had any difficulty in finding the Arum in the summer myself, and if others did, they must have been blind. Until this year.
A spot we would know quite well, and would visit from time to time, had Arum maculatum growing. There were about five of the flowers, and we never saw one. Until last week! The red berries of the Arum were highly visible, in places where we would have looked when they were in flower. Now we understand this phenomenon of seeing Arum berries, but not the flowers.
The berries are very striking. The cuckoo pint, for that is another name by which it is known, may have lovely red berries, but they are highly poisonous.
They may be even fatal if children are involved, so take great care not to disturb, or permit to be disturbed, this lovely, deadly flower.
The cuckoo pint has all sorts of other old names, wake robin, for example, and bod gabhair, Adam and Eve, tender ear. There are more!
Flowers are contained in a broad, sheathing hood and this particular part of the flower is called a spathe. It is very unlike any other flower. Inside the spathe is the spadix, growing up like a piece of wood, and this can be a bit smelly, not to mention a bit warm.
Insects love this combination and are attracted to it. They crawl down into the heart of the flower, and are then trapped by downward-pointing hairs which do not permit upward travel.
The insects automatically move around, and in doing so pollinate the flower. If they are very lucky they escape. If they are very, very lucky and still alive after pollination, the spadix will wither, allowing exit.
Must remember to look out for the flower of the Arum maculatum next year. And be sure to see it before the berries form!
A more common flower is the convulvus, and it is much more easy to see than the Arum because it is much more common. In fact, I wish we, could exterminate it in our garden because it is too common.
At one level the convulvus is a lovely flower. It seems to show up more at dusk and the combination of lighting and flowers make it appear magical.
At another level the convulvus is a menace. Once it sticks its head above the soil surface it looks for something to latch on to.
In our garden it. usually grows in the hedges, winding in an anti-clockwise direction ever upwards. Which is fine. But when you come to try to remove it you can only get a little amount at a time. How can you unwrap a metre of convulvus which is wrapped around many branches in the middle of a hedge?
Perhaps some people are never satisfied. How is it that we can admire an Arum, and it highly poisonous, and admire convolvus, but quietly curse it for being a menace?
Sunday 31 August - Wetlands Olympics at Castle Espie, more from 91-87 4146.
Saturday 30 August - Bat Walk and Barbeque at Moneypenny's Lock on Newry Canal. Ring Oxford Island, 3832 2205 for details
Monday 22 September - Lisburn RSPB will hear about the Re-introduction of the Golden Eagle from Lorcan O'Toole, the project coordinator. Members and public welcome.