In the lower altitudes of the Highlands I gauge the start of spring by the Blackthorn coming into flower and catkins appearing on the Pussy Willow.
Soon after I start to see the first Scottish flowers appear and the stars of the show can be found in the woodland. Wood Anemone is often the first to make an appearance and can range from white (as pictured) to pink in colour. The anemone or wind-flower was so called because the ancient Greeks believed that the flower would only open as the wind blew on it.
Bluebells, known in folklore as fairy flowers, are the next to blossom in a violet-blue mist across the woodland floor. The clusters of bell-shaped flowers create beautiful carpets of colour that can be found all over Scotland.
Contrary to the name not all Bluebells are blue, they can occasionally be found in white. In folklore these rare white ones are said to indicate where a fairy has been.
The UK may be home to up to half of the global population of the species as bluebells. To spot a native woodland bluebell look out for droop at the stem and deep violet colour. They are different from the bigger-leaved and more upright Spanish Bluebell you see commonly in gardens. Not sure what you’ve spotted? Try this quiz from the Woodland Trust.
One of the Gaidhlig names for Bluebell is Fuath-mhuc or ‘hated by pigs’.
Bluebells contain toxic glycosides and domestic livestock have been reported to suffer digestive problems after eating bluebell leaves – the pigs were right to shun it! Another name is Bròg na Cubhaigor Cuckoo’s shoe as it blooms when Cuckoos are calling away.
The Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock is another spring flower. It is known by both names: Cuckoo due to the time the flower blooms, and Lady’s Smock due to its delicate lilac colouring. i In Gaelic it is known as Biolair ghriagain meaning cress of the sunny spot. You’ll find it in abundance in damp meadows or road verges alongside the Orange-tip Butterfly that is closely associated with the plant.
Don’t underrate spring in Scotland. We often get a stable run of good weather through mid-May into June just as the vivid and lush greenery explodes into life. Thinking about joining us?