Wednesday, March 23, 2022

What a Star...

Yellow Star of Bethlehem Gagea lutea 

At lunchtime yesterday, I took a trip west, to Morpeth, to twitch a very special plant, the Yellow Star of Bethlehem Gagea lutea.  

The name Gagea comes from the 18th century botanist Thomas Gage. It is a rare plant in Northumberland and quite scarce or difficult to find anywhere in the UK. Often when spring has poor weather it doesn't flower at all. The leaves are similar to Bluebell at this time of year and it grows in riparian woodlands where Bluebells occur so it would be beyond my botany skills to look for it on vegetation alone.

Leaving the car in the small woodland car park, it was only a hundred metres or so on a pleasantly warm sunny afternoon to the spot. The area was dotted with Celandines and Anemones as bumblebees buzzed around the leaf litter. An angler beginning his season with the fly, bid me a good morning with a suspicious look as he passed. Maybe he thought I was the bailiff on the opening day watching for poachers?

For the first time I used the 'What 3 Words' app and a 3 mtr square ref given to me by a friend to put me on the exact place. It was very accurate too, well worth using in situations such as this.

In a small patch only two metres by one, around 20 flower spikes stood up, the lime-yellow star shaped flowers like tiny daffodils facing the sunshine. It was much more delicate than imagined, a lovely little plant. Things almost took a downturn when a Border Collie named 'Moss' saw me crouching for photos and came across to stand, smack in the middle of the flowers! Luckily I soon encouraged him that this was not a good idea and off he went with his owner leaving no damage to the flora.

A new species for me and a nice way to spend a spring lunchtime.



Gibster said...

Wow, you did better than I did for finding them in flower. I managed a few buds and one that was half-open (though that was a month back now). Once you get your eye in to the pointy tip and 'hooded' appearance of the leaf blade you'll see it's not that similar to a young Bluebell blade. More like the front of a tiny green canoe :)

Stewart said...

Hi Seth, aye its been a good year hear I'm told, the sun has them all opening up. Yes I saw the leaf tip hood, but that would be a needle in a haystack to me :)