Wildlife & Nature to See in April : Violets
Wildlife to See in April : Violets
This April I have promised I will avoid all Easter-related clichés, so I’m afraid no mention of eggs, fluffy chicks, frolicking lambs, etc.
But this doesn’t mean the column can’t be cheerful! And there are few flowers which cheer me more than the beautiful violet. On Friday I took a walk in woodland in Fulbourn (outside of Cambridge) and saw my first violets this year, gleaming in dappled sunshine under the trees. Violets are native to the northern hemisphere, and can vary in colour, although are most recognisable in a Cadbury’s shade of purple or white.
Common species in Britain include the Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) and the scentless Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) which was recently voted the favourite flower of inhabitants of Lincolnshire, in a fascinating survey by Plantlife.
The Sweet Violet’s flower is pale blue, pansy-like in shape, with five petals, and is a colourful addition to salads (needless to say- don’t pick wild ones).
I have recently discovered that the leaves are often used in medicines, being rich in vitamins A and C, whilst the flowers can be made into a Chinese herbal tea.
The perfumed flowers are the traditional flower of love (less garish than roses) and have previously been used as the symbol of ancient Athens, and to decorate the followers of Napoleon. Nowadays, instead of French soldiers, they are more likely to attract happy swarms of bees, and make a great addition to a wildlife garden. Another bonus of growing the delicate flowers, is that they bloom both in Spring and Autumn.
Most British woodlands should have violets growing throughout Spring, check damp patches in hedgerows or under trees, as the flowers avoid too much direct sunlight.