Thursday, 25 May 2017

Post 465 - Magical Mesmerising May Lillies

Hey everyone, post 465 and something a bit special today. Last month I went out for a walk looking for something special, something completely different to what I found but something I've been wanting to see again for a long time. Adders! I saw one quite close up when I was very little, almost too close up, as it was reared up on a path in front of me when I was walking in our local forest. I saw another in Scotland but that was a few years ago too. So our family went looking for them at a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve that's meant to be very good for them but we must have been too late in the day as we didn't see any.

Still we saw some Common Lizards, the first this year, and had a nice walk around the reserve. As I passed a bit of it I noticed a tiny fenced enclosure and wondered why it was like that. There was a plant inside that I didn't recognise so I took a photo and thought I'll look it up when I get home.

I happened to be tweeting for #wildflowerhour a few photos of things I'd found. I'm not much of a botanist so it's just plants I find that look beautiful or unusual. I'm starting to learn a bit more by doing this so then I tweeted about my mystery plant to see if people could help me out.
So I had some botanists on the case (thanks @botanicalmartin, @RubusCaesius3 , @dave_renwick, @BSBIbotany ) and after a while people decided what I had found was in fact a May Lily!

The patch of May Lillies I found
Well, thanks to these botanical friends I knew what it was and I also knew it was very rare. Most of these people haven't seen this plant as it's so rare here in the UK!

Well as this photo was of the plant in bud they hoped I'd get back to take a few photos of it in flower. It's a bit far from me but knowing it was a bit special, well I had too really. So last weekend we managed to get back and thankfully the lily was flowering! I managed a few shots but with the flower being in an enclosure and it being a bit windy they aren't the best shots I've ever got but I hope you like them.

I had to do a bit of research so here's a bit of info on them too:
A shot at flower level

  • The May Lily is also known as False Lily of the Valley. I think that's a bit unfair as I have Lily of the Valley in the garden and I think I prefer the May Lily.
  • I prefer it as it's a small delicate plant. In the patch I found it is quite small but it can be between 2-8" tall
  • It's only found in four locations here in the UK but is more common in mainland Europe.
I love the unusual way they grow.
  • The May Lily is an indicator of ancient woodland and it likes shady places with acidic soils.
  • A big threat to it is the loss of these habitats. it was a lot more common in the 17th Century.
  • Its latin name is Maianthemum bifolum and generally only has two leaves (bifolum), but might have four sometimes.

  • The first bit of its latin name, Maianthemum, refers to its flowering period but it does flower into June as well.
    A flower close up.

    • It is a perennial herb that spreads through its roots.
    • It has lovely white flowers that are mainly pollinated by flies.
    • Once pollinated it can produce sweet red berries which are poisonous in large quantities to us but not to birds, though they don't seem to be too keen on them.
    Well, what a nice find! It more than made up for not finding the Adders I had been looking for but I guess I'll have to keep trying for them, and maybe get up a bit earlier too :-p

    Hope you enjoyed,


    1 comment:

    1. Another interesting and informative article, Zach. Have you seen this app Pl@ntNet on Android. It uses GPS along with you taking a photo of the plant and it will then search a vast database. I have to admit that I was sceptical at first, but it really does work. Just thought you might like it.

      Keep up the great writing.