• New Nature Magazine

Signs of Spring At Wicor Primary School

Last week we were out searching for signs of spring, and there were many of them. However, there was one sign which we all could tell you about before even going out. Something which many people automatically associate with spring – and that is the daffodil. Its bright yellow colour breaks the monotony of the grey of winter, and most people can recognise the green leaves poking through the ground. Our grounds have really changed over the last fortnight. We broke up for half term leaving behind twigs and bare trees, evergreens struggling to inject colour and a few remaining rowan or holly berries dangling precariously in the wind and rain. We came back to catkins, crocuses, polyanthus, greater celandines, mahonia, twigs showing bud bursts and of course the yellow of daffodils.

But many of our daffodils are rather special. They are not the garish bright yellow of the garden type but of the British native Narcissus pseudonarcissus (sometimes known as Lent lily). You can tell them apart from the garden variety as a native daffodil has a two-tone effect of pale yellow petals surrounding a darker yellow trumpet. It also has long, narrow leaves which are very slightly greyish green, it is relatively short and is clump forming, carpeting the ground. At school our daffodils are nestled at the foot of the heritage apple trees in the orchard, and tucked next to hellebores in the stumpery. They look so beautiful as they push up through the grasses of the orchard meadow and then finally show their nodding heads.

So why do we consider our daffodils special? It is because we know that wild daffodils are much rarer than the daffodils you usually see in gardens which are non-native. The British wild daffodil started to decline in the 19th century as a result of habitat loss and can only be seen now in large swathes in certain parts of the country including Ullswater in the Lake District which is where they inspired Wordsworth’s poem ‘I wondered lonely as a cloud’ also commonly known as ‘Daffodils’ (published 1807). Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy described in her diary how the daffodils ‘tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake.’ Shakespeare was also inspired by these daffodils even earlier in 1623 and he referred to them in A Winter’s Tale (act 4, scene 4) with ‘Daffodils that come before the swallows dare, and take the winds of March with beauty.’ However, unfortunately in 2017 these native daffodils are coming under threat more and more, due to cross pollination with the non-native species that flowers at the same time as those you see in gardens.

At Wicor we try to think about always planting native species as we know that they support a larger variety of animals and insects than foreign species do. Over the years we have planted many native bulbs including tulips (Tulipa sylvestris), bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and the snakes head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) which is Britain’s only native fritillary. We hope to see the latter nodding away in April.

First published March 8th 2017.

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