Spring is here! The hedgerows are bursting with vivid lime-green leaves. Pretty white flowers are already cascading from the branches of blackthorn and soon you’ll spot hawthorn blooming too. Though known as the May tree, the heavy scent of hawthorn flowers may be in the air by the end of April. It’s the trimethylamine found in the blossom that gives it its distinctive smell and helps attract flies and other pollinators. However it also gives rise to reputation as an unlucky plant, which people won’t have in their home – trimethylamine is one of the chemicals released when animal tissue begins to decay!
To get the best spring time blossom the great British weather has to give us a fairly chilly and damp January and February, followed by a sunny, warm March – quite a prescriptive forecast.
Fluffy bunny facts
Want to watch for rabbits? They are crepuscular which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. As they are prey to many birds of prey and mammals like weasels, badgers and stoats, rabbits need good defence mechanisms. Their large eyes are set on the side of their heads giving them almost 180 degree vision, helping them stay alert to danger.
Rabbits love to munch on any vegetation within reach, from tree bark to grass, herbs and farmer’s crops, if they can get hold of them! The phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ comes from the fact that each adult female can have seven litters a year with three to seven bunnies each time. These little balls of fluff grow fast and will be independent in four weeks!
Chomping on Chocolate
As you munch into your Easter chocolate you may wonder where the magic, melty stuff comes from. The cacao tree is unusual as the flowers develop on old wood, a method called cauliflory. The tiny flowers on the trunks are pollinated by little flies, midges or maybe mosquitoes. Once ripe the yellow cacao pods are harvested and the seeds removed to be fermented, dried and roasted, ready for chocolate production. The botanist Linnaeus renamed the tree Theobroma back in the 18th century. This botanical name is derived from Greek and translates as ‘food of the gods.’
In the UK, male mosquitoes also pollinate flowers and actually don’t bite! It’s only female mosquitoes which need the protein from blood to produce eggs.
And if you’ve over-indulged, why not work off your choccie eggs with a wild walk? You could catch sight of the first fledglings of the season as resident birds like blue tits and blackbirds may have their first brood. Peer into ponds for wriggling tadpoles and watch for butterflies on the wing as peacock, orange tip and speckled wood butterflies appear in April. Get out into nature and experience spring-time in all its beauty.
Louise Barrack, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
Want to get out and explore wildlife this spring? Visit one of our nature reserves near you! www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves