Heaven in a wildflower

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

William Blake

The second of this week’s posts about our stay on Ynys Gybi, at the tip of Anglesey.

Now, even I know Anglesey’s good for wildflowers. Lots of uncultivated heathland, much of it on sandy soil and a good deal of it on cliffs us humans can’t get to. Ideal.

And then this year we’ve also had our late, slow Spring. So when we arrived in Anglesey this last Saturday it was like a party and all the wildflowers had come out to meet us. ‘Lots of them are a month late,’ the friendly woman at Anglesey Outdoors Centre where we were staying told us, ‘So they’re all here at once.’

Let’s have a look at them then, the cliffs up towards South Stack where we saw most of them, and some of the paintings Sarah did of them and the place while we were there.

And here to show us round is Sarah, who knows about wildflowers, whereas I am just the pupil.

*

Sarah here… with a wildflower feast!

Before we set off for Anglesey I say to a friend that I’m a little sad that we’ve not been in May, as that’s when my favourite spring flower is out – the spring squill. It is a lovely flower. It is ‘locally common on coasts of West Britain and East ireland, and scare or absent elsewhere. It grows within sight of the sea.’ (From the Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers).

Imagine my delight then when we arrive in Anglesey… as soon as we walk up onto the cliff… it is covered in spring squill.

squill

Spring squill – one of my favourite flowers.

They grow low to the ground, especially in cliff top locations… and at first you don’t always notice them, but once you do, first one, then another… you realise that underfoot is studded with these gorgeous blue flowers. The dark blue anthers I find particularly attractive. You can see them very clearly here in this picture , six of them stop white filaments surrounding the dark blue central ovary.

wildflower02

Here is a spring squill, ready to be painted… (please note, I only picked one, it is abundant here and I have pressed it to add to my herbarium).

And here is the painting...

And here is the painting…

We’ve strolled down to the beach at Porth Dafarch, about 300 yards from where we are staying at Anglesey Outdoors. A magnificent beach. Golden sand, surrounded by rock pools, accessible cliffs and blue water. Ideal!

The beach at Porth Dafach.

The beach at Porth Dafach.

Our first explore is of the cliffs you can see here on the far side of the bay. We then cross the beach and walk along the cliff path on the opposite side.

Along the cliff path, the rocks are full of plants...

Along the cliff path, the rocks are full of plants…

Sea thrift

A mixture of white, lilac, yellow, blue, pink and green…

Sea thrift

Sea thrift (Armeria maritima). Widespread and locally abundant; mainly coastal. For me this flower defines British clifftops.

Sheep's bit scabious

Sheep’s bit scabious (Jasione montana). A downy biennial that grows in dry grassland and on coastal cliffs. Widespread but local, and commonest in the west and near the sea.

unidentified

Haven’t been able to identify this…. any ideas? (Sorry plant ID fans I have omitted to photograph the leaves, the leaves behind are ivy, not belonging to this flower spike).

Bladder campion

Sea campion (Silene uniflora). Widespread and locally common around the coast.

Kidney vetch

Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria). Perennial found on calcareous grassland and coastal slopes.

plantain?

Sea thrift, and sea plantain (Plantago maritima), both common around coasts.

ox eye daisy

Sea mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritimum). Lots of these ‘daisy’ like flowers which I thought were oxeye daisy, but my guidebook suggests sea mayweed – widespread around coasts.

Every crevice is home to someone...

Every crevice is home to someone… this is another daisy (Bellis perennis).

Walking back along the road to our home for the weekend, the roadside verge is full of life…

roadside verge

The roadside verge.

red campion and buttercup

Red campion and buttercup.

Frothy heads of the umbellifer... cow parsley

Frothy heads of the a white umbellifer… there are a number of similar plants, but I think this is probably wild carrot (Daucus carota).

red campion

Red campion (Silene dioica).

herb robert

Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum). A lovely straggling annual that grows everywhere.

bed straw?

I’m guessing this is a member of the cabbage family (judging from the arrangement of flowers and seedheads), possibly common scurvygrass (Coclearia officinalis) which is common around coastal walls and cliffs.

stitchwort

This is a stitchwort, of which there are several. I think this is greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea). Widespread and common but lovely nonetheless.

And look....

And look…. look closely at the blue flower.

If you look closely you can see that the last bluebells are still here..

The last bluebells are still here…

And on the hillsides the gorse is abundantly flowering

And on the hillsides the gorse is abundantly flowering

Not just flowers and shrubs in flower... here's sycamore

And even the trees are in flower… here’s the flowers of a sycamore tree – which provide excellent food for bees – you can see a bumble bee in the top left flower. It’s a black bumble bee with an orange ‘tail’.

The next day we head to the cliffs again, and this time keep walking.

Cliff walk

Cliff walking. Beautiful.

daisy

More of those lovely daisy flowers. Sea mayweed.

sheep's bit scabious

And sheep’s bit scabious.

foxglove

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).

secret beaches...

Secret beaches…

Shy bluebells.

Shy bluebells.

And huge clover flowers.

And huge clover flowers.

Clifftop heaven.

Clifftop heaven.

can't see

More spring squill… you could almost miss it if you didn’t look.

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil.

We stop here to

We stop here to set up a Skype conversation with our friend Mandy in Western Australia.

wildflower heaven

I’m looking forward to showing Mandy the wildflower heaven we are sitting in.

We don't reach Australia... but while we're trying, this creature crawls up Ronnie's trousers...

We don’t reach Australia… but while we’re trying, this creature crawls up Ronnie’s trousers…

A relative is nearby... looks like he's drunk on nectar...

A relative is nearby… looks like he’s drunk on nectar…

We carry on

We carry on amidst total abundance of flowers.

sheep's bit scabious

Sheep’s bit scabious close up – you can see the purple pollen.

mmmmm

Lovely.

gorgeous

Gorgeous.

We stop for lunch, and for a bit of plant ID.

'In the field.' Sarah researches this post.

‘In the field.’ I’m researching this post.

Lousewort

This is very interesting. It’s called lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica). I have seen this in marshy fields, but never up on a cliff top. It’s a semi-parasitic plant which grows on the roots of other plants – it extracts nutrients from the roots of other plants through tiny white suckers on its own roots.

More lousewort

More lousewort, growing abundantly here.

Every crevice is full...

Every crevice is full… the plant is stonecrop (Sedum anglicum), which is very common especially in West Britain and Ireland, often tinged red as this one is. And you can see grey lichen on the bare rock.

flowers

Flowers of stonecrop.

and...

And more sea thrift, enjoying a clifftop seaview.

white campion

Sea campion and sea thrift.

sea thyme

Wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus), forming mats of tiny green leaves and faintly aromatic purple flowers.

Live is everywhere

Life is everywhere… shiney green beetle on ubiquitous yellow daisy-like flower… maybe a hawkbit or hawkweed… This yellow daisy-like flower is one of many similar ones, much like the white umbellifers… which fall into the ‘difficult to ID plants’….

Don't know what this one's called?

Don’t know what this one’s called?

And finally... we arrive at South Stack

And finally… we arrive at the cliffs at South Stack. We visit the lighthouse – see Ronnie’s previous post – and then go to find this unremarkable looking yellow flower…

Spathulate fleawort

Spatulate fleawort, the yellow flower, which is only found on these cliffs in the whole world.

A closer look.

A closer look.

And wander homeAnd we wander home… along abundant roadside verges and blue skies.

Speedwell

And lovely blue-eyed speedwell (Veronica persica).

Finally

Finally, nearly back home, and there’s red valerian (Centhranthus ruber) in flower – a flower I consider to be a later summer flower, and yet I’ve seen lots of spring flowers too… just proving that ‘there all here at once’ indeed. Lovely. Quite lovely. Heaven indeed.

See also ‘To the Lighthouse’ about our visit to the South Stack Lighthouse.

13 thoughts on “Heaven in a wildflower

  1. stan cotter

    Your photography is as good as your subject Ronnie, really lovely.

    Did you know there was a system of semaphore from Point Lynas back to liverpool, set up by the shipping companies to a number of points along the coast, advising of the weather conditions? A book was written about it and it was called appropriately “Faster than the wind” because the report got to the companies before the weather did. On the hill at the back of Prestatyn and Gronant there is a lonely building with a wide window at the front, it’s privatrely owned now but as a child I went in with my parents for pots of tea and cakes. It was a cafe but it was also part of the telegraph system. On the roof was a wether vane right through the roof and inside on the ceiling was a compass painted. And the vane turned the compass point inside.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but its your fault, you keep digging these things out of my head!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes

      Thanks for your compliments Stan, but Sarah took all of these photographs! I only took the ones of her.

      And that’s a great memory of the semaphore system. I had heard of it, because one of the semaphore stations was Hilbre, but didn’t know one of the others was a café.

      Reply
  2. cheethamlib

    Such a shame that you didn’t manage to reach across the world from that heavenly place.

    What an amazing selection of plants each one so different, but obviously perfectly adapted to a coastal environment. Some, I recognise particularly the daisies, creeping geranium and sea thrift. As always those deep blue colours enchant me really it is hard to place a favourite.

    Wonderful photographs of this paradise so comforting to see such natural abundance. I liked the secret beaches too.

    Reply
  3. lisaamartin

    Thanks for this post, and your lovely photos! I’ve just come back from a camping trip in Pembrokeshire and your post helped me identify some of the beautiful wildflowers I photographed. I especially liked the stonecrop – what an ugly name for such a pretty and intricate little flower!

    Reply
  4. David

    Hi,
    Lovely photos, I’m off to Anglesey for 1st time myself this June. The tall whitish plant with tubular flowers is Navelwort, Umbilicus rupestris.
    Regards
    Dave
    @Barbus59

    Reply

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