Sunday, 29 March 2015

Yellow Star of Bethlehem - Third Time Lucky

Today was my third attempt in five years at locating the very elusive Yellow Star of Bethlehem - Gagea lutea at a site in North Somerset (the closest site to Devon for it, as far as I am aware). I know it occurs there but on two previous years I just couldn't find any, well any flowering that is. The plant is notorious for being a very shy flowerer in the UK, sometimes not flowering for years at a time. I decided to go a week or so earlier this year so as there wouldn't be so much ground cover for them to hide in. When I arrived it was pretty easy to spot hundreds if not thousands of small non-flowering plants and eventually I spotted my prize amongst them, a tiny glint of yellow giving away the location of a small group of flowering stems. I counted seven flowering plants in total but they were only just starting to open, with a couple of the plants still in bud. It was hugely satisfying to see them at last and they were every bit as subtly beautiful as I'd hoped they'd be. My photos aren't as good as they could have been due to the very high winds we had today. The delicate little flower stems were waving about all over the place!

The plants grow on steep moss covered rocky ledges overlooking a long disused quarry.
The leaves of the young plants are very grass like. You may just be able to make out a bit of yellow in the centre.

There are five flowering stems in the photo which shows how difficult they can be to spot.
The broader leaves are Ramsons. A lot of the vegetation had been nibbled by deer.

A single flowering plant with one large basal leaf and two leaf-like bracts below the flowers.

The two leaf-like bracts have really hairy margins as can easily be seen here.

The basal leaves are distinctive in having three prominent veins on the back
 unlike Bluebells which have just the one.

Until the petals fold right back the flowers can be difficult to spot because the back of them has a broad green stripe. I think because of this, they look quite beautiful when not fully open.

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