Buttercups at Haddon Wood
The Buttercups are now blooming in Haddon Wood and there are three different species, so I thought it would be nice to look at them. Interestingly the name Buttercup did not come into common use until the middle of the eighteenth century. Before that there were a host of local names such as Butter and Cheese, Butter Flowers, Golden Cup and Soldier Buttons, all of which were used in Somerset. Also people did not differentiate between the species (1).
Two of the species are present in the orchard and the field next to it, which is the ridge and furrow field. The shorter plant is Bulbous Buttercup which is easily recognised by looking underneath the petals, where you will find a ring of five smaller sepals which are folded backwards or reflexed, as shown in the photograph on the right. The taller species has the sepals in line with the petals and is the Meadow Buttercup, which is shown on the left. Other distinguishing features of the Meadow Buttercup are its smooth flower stem and its leaves which are sharply toothed with the lobes unstalked. The photograph below on the left is of a leaf on the flower stalk the one on the right is one of the basal leaves
The third species, which is Creeping Buttercup, is growing by the sides of the path around the pond, since it prefers damper grassland than the other two. To differentiate it from the Meadow Buttercup, firstly it tends to be shorter and the flower stalk has ridges along its length, also the leaves have a long stalked middle lobe as shown in the photographs below
Walking along the path from the orchard to Mary’s seat, Cuckooflowers are scattered amongst the trees which are also known as Lady’s smock and Milkmaids (1). They like damp conditions and in some ridge and furrow fields they grow in the furrows, which collect water, whilst Buttercups are on the ridges, which must be a lovely sight (2).
According to the Woodland Trust our ridge and furrow field is one of the best examples in Somerset. They were formed in the medieval period by ploughing with teams of up to four pairs of oxen on heavier soils, with a mouldboard which turned the soil to the right. By ploughing consistently over several seasons ridges were formed which assisted the drainage of the soil, as shown in the diagram below. Oxen were the main power source in medieval farming since horses were a luxury reserved for the upper classes (3).
It is always worth keeping your eyes open in the wood. In field three I found a mass of small black caterpillars next to a silken web on a small blackthorn bush. Some caterpillars live communally in a dense web of silk on their food plant, which appears to be the case here. Unfortunately I do not know the species but will try and find out.
With the year progressing, a lot more flowers will be coming into bloom. It is especially worth keeping an eye on the pond over the coming weeks, as a lot of plants have flower buds forming. But most of all enjoy spring turning into summer and all the natural beauty unfolding around us.
(1) The Englishman’s Flora, Geoffrey Grigson. 1975.
(2) The History of the Countryside, Oliver Rackham. 1986.
(3) Shell Guide to Reading the Landscape, Richard Muir. 1981.
Thank you Daphne one of our amaizing volunteers at Haddon wood for this newsletter