This morning, just for a change, it was drizzling. The sky was leaden grey and the garden was bending under the weight of resting water. Not a good day for a hunt then? Pah! You try stopping me.
Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe
I’m more used to hunting for mammals but today I was on the hunt for a very rare and very beautiful plant; the Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe.
Stuart Roberts (of the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society) had asked me the other day whether I knew of any Marsh Gentian on the Heath. I didn’t know. I thought about it a few days later and wondered why Stuart had asked, was there a particular bee or wasp that visited the Marsh Gentian? Suddenly I was on a mission!
Bog Asphodels Carpeted the Marsh : Their Seed Heads Swaying in the Breeze
I asked everyone I could think of and in the end two of the Heath reserve wardens at Dorset Wildlife Trust answered my question. Yes, there was Marsh Gentian growing on the Heath and yes, they could tell me where (but I was sworn to secrecy!).
Today was to be the day. OK, it was raining and overcast but it was a Sunday and “going for a walk in the rain” was becoming a bit of a habit. I arrived at the secret location and was immediately stumped. All I could see was purple heather. Very pretty but not really what I’d come to see. I stood there looking around me like some lost toddler in Woolworths.
One of the Marsh Gentian plants
“You lost?” came a voice. A smiling woman and dog (the woman was smiling not the dog) were heading towards me looking concerned. “No, I’m looking for a plant” I said. Now in the normal world that would sound a little strange but when you live in a place where people love nature it doesn’t sound so odd. “A Marsh Gentian” I continued.
“Well I haven’t seen them myself” she said “but if they’re going to be anywhere I expect they’ll be with the Bog Asphodel. Follow that path by the pond, go round the back of the hill and the marshy bit with the Asphodel will be in front of you”. I headed off with renewed enthusiasm.
Marsh Gentian; the Third Plant
As I came round the corner of the hill the orange seedheads of Bog Asphodel were swaying in the breeze in front of me. I kept going, looking for the pure blue flowers of the Gentians. Suddenly I saw one, then another, then another. Not in full bloom but unmistakably Marsh Gentians. Found ya!
Now isn’t that a flying insect climbing up the bloom of that first Gentian picture? “Stuart…..!!”