Recently, while looking through some photos I’d taken, I noticed a common theme. Apart from the green of new growth there is one colour which stands out at this time of year: Yellow. I would go so far as to call it the colour of spring, for it isn’t anywhere near as prevalent at any other time of year among wild flowers.
Stop to think for a while of spring flowers and among those emblematic of the season are a great number of yellow blooms: Daffodils, aconites, primroses, cowslips, oxlips, lesser celandine, kingcups…
There are others too though not necessarily associated with spring, they can be found flowering now too: Gorse, buttercups and dandelions for example.
That said, yellow isn’t perhaps strictly the only colour of spring, as white – if you can call it a colour (that’s a whole other discussion!) – is also common at this time of year.
Snowdrops are perhaps the most obvious that come to mind, shortly followed by others like wood anemone, blackthorn blossom, greater stitchwort, wild garlic and jack-by-the-hedge.
Of course they aren’t the only colours either, there are vibrant purple violets, wonderful sapphire bluebells, delicate pink herb robert, mauve ground ivy daintily speckled with maroon and all manner of others in between. But none of these really proliferate through so many species, even if bluebells do form magnificent carpets of colour that can dominate an entire woodland floor!
The idea intrigued me and having done a little reading around the subject it would appear that there are several theories as to why shades of yellow and white are the colours of spring.
Firstly, being brighter colours, they are easily spotted by what few pollinators are around in the cooler weather conditions. Next, the paler colours soak up the warmth from the weak winter sun more efficiently in relation to their background foliage and than darker coloured flowers which generally emerge later in the season. This allows them to develop better and remain fertile even in colder temperatures.
Fascinating stuff – I love it when a simple observation leads me to such an interesting concept!
Next time you’re out and about take a look around you and see what you notice about our native wildlife, perhaps you’ll have a similar revelation… let me know if you do!