by Paul Cormacain
THE flower books say that harebells grow from July to September, but I do not remember seeing so many harebells at this time in previous years.
Some days I see dozens of butterflies, never noted in previous years -'near the end of September. I have to say that whenever we go for a walk, in what ever part of the country we are, there are fewer butter flies than there are in our own garden.
Mushrooms and common puffballs are available out and about in fields,
parks and farms. The puffballs are edible, we are told, but I would prefer
the presence of a European expert for more guidance. Well. the
Europeans do take their fungi seriously, and you can see them out collecting fungus on a regular basis when you are on the continent.
I ate the edible mushrooms, and I ate the horse mushrooms, but I left other fungus alone! Mind you, I had to make, a good identification of the horse type, because if we had gone for the similar-looking yellow-staining mushroom, we could well have been inconvenienced more than somewhat!
To get back to the harebells. The Scots call them bluebells, which is an excellent name for a beautiful flower; but somewhat confusing to us who already have the bluebell.
Did you know that the digging up of bluebells for any reason is illegal? Think about that next spring!
If you are confused by the name Scottish bluebell, just think about the Scots calling our flower the "wild hyacinth". Then think about other variations, linked in with folklore and magic, when the Scots would call their bluebell "witches' thimbles". Or they might prefer "fairy bells", another magical name, or "old man's bells", where the old man is the devil.
How do they think up the names?
As part of the scientific name suggests, the Campanula hangs like a bell, moving slightly in the wind, but unlike a bell it is silent. Its stalk is originally curved.
In a very slight wind, the flower nods, but still no ring. The fruit develops, and the stalks become more upright.
Pores develop at the base of the fruit capsule, and these pores are such that only a few seeds are allowed to pass through at a time. When the wind strengthens a bit, the capsules sway in the wind on its wiry stem.
The seeds are shaken out, and depending on wind strength are carried to shorter or longer distances. This is clever old Mother Nature ensuring a good seed dispersal.
So it is good to see so many flowers so late in the year. It is wonderful to see so many butterflies, and they are looking- so hale, so hearty, and so full-coloured
I have seen much less healthy ones a month or two ago. We are always advised to warn when talking of fungi, so take no chances with any kind of fungus unless you are absolutely sure that what you are going to eat is not poisonous.
Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th October - Join in Brent goose watches at Castle Espie or other spots on Strangford Lough, details from Espie on 028 9187 4146.
Sunday 5th October - The Wildlife Trust is on the lookout for volunteers who would like to travel to Glenarm and collect seeds from native trees, a very worthwhile job! More information from Malachy Martin on 028 4483 0282