The blackthorn is in flower

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is now in flower in my garden. Its name derives from the fact that it has a very dark bark and serious spiny thorns on its branches.

Blackthorn 2
Its leaves are eaten by a number of moth and butterfly caterpillars including the brown hairstreak and the emperor moth

Blackthorn 1On account of its spiny stems blackthorn is often used as a hedging shrub to keep cattle in a field.

Blackthorn 3In the autumn the fruit of the blackthorn will appear – the sloe – which is rather bitter to eat on its own but does combine very well with gin!

Blackthorn and hawthorn – the darker side

I always enjoy seeing the blackthorn and the hawthorn coming in flower. Blackthorn flowers first in March and April signalling what is to come whereas hawthorn is in full flower in May telling us spring is well and truly here.

Those of us who have managed woodlands however tend to dislike both species as their spiny branches puncture our skins when we are trying to coppice them.

The folklore of both species is also very interesting – blackthorn being seen as a plant of evil and bad luck – see here. Hawthorn has a more positive press and was originally used to make Maypoles but also has a darker side as it was apparently the species used by witches to make broomsticks! – see here.

To be honest I just like the look of them!

BlackthornBlackthorn flowers

HawthornHawthorn flowers

Spring blossom, buds and chard!

With spring comes all the blossom – it is interesting to think why blossom is almost universally white or at least a pinky white when so many of the non tree flowers are yellow. The reason must be that both colours are attractive to pollinating insects.

BlackthornHere are the distinctive flowers of the blackthorn

ApplesAn apple tree flowering in the Walled Garden at Parke

VinesThe vines are Parke are also slowly coming to life

Vines 2Leaves and buds beginning to emerge

ChardAnd finally the chard! What a beautiful flash of colour! What a disappointing tasting salad!