SOFT sunlight filtering through towering alders, the tumbling gurgle of rushing water, and wildflowers peppering the bank of the River Devon in a drift of yellow and white polka dots.

It was a joy to be down by the river and emerge myself in the beauty of their emerging blooms, the day before the coronavirus lockdown was announced.

The yellow flowers belonged to lesser celandines and the white ones were wood anemones, two of our earliest flowering wild plants.

They were such natural wonders; gold and snowy-white spangled colour, reflecting hope and promise in this season of renewal.

The early flowering of lesser celandines and wood anemones benefits nectar seeking insects at a time when there are precious few other wildflowers about.

For early emerging bumblebees, a sun-glowed clump of lesser celandines on the riverbank is an oasis, a provider of life.

Both lesser celandines and wood anemones adore sunshine, and if it is cold or wet, they will close their petals like a clenched fist.

Or as William Wordsworth observed: "There is a flower, the lesser celandine/That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain/ And, the first moment the sun may shine/ Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again!"

A gentle breeze rippled across the bankside and the little white petals of the wood anemones quivered and shook in quite delightful fashion.

How appropriate, I thought, for the wood anemone is often known as the windflower and, indeed, is so named after the Greek word for wind, anemos.

According to Greek mythology, anemone flowers sprung up where Aphrodite's tears fell as she wept over the death of her lover, Adonis.

Other folklore connects the anemone to magical fairies, who were believed to sleep within their petals after they closed at sunset.

Wood anemones and lesser celandines are two flowering jewels that have inspired humankind from the earliest of times – and they continue to do so to this day.

The 19th century poet John Clare wrote of wood anemones being "..weeping flowers in thousands pearled in dew". A perfect description for such perfect flowers.


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