Rare and beautiful pasqueflowers on a hillside at Therfield Heath, Hertfordshire
In March 2019, I found just one solitary pasqueflower plant growing in the wild at Martin Down Nature Reserve, on the border of Wiltshire and Dorset. Delighted to finally see this rare and beautiful plant for myself, I was keen to find more. Unfortunately, the number of pasqueflowers at Martin Down has dwindled over the years and I only found that one specimen. [You can see a photo of the Martin Down pasqueflower here].
Undeterred, I knew there was supposed to be a whole hillside full of pasqueflowers at Therfield Heath. As a result I wanted to see this amazing spectacle for myself. Combining my visit with the chance to catch up with a dear friend, who lives near the pasqueflower field, I set off for Hertfordshire.
County flower of Hertfordshire
Sadly, this county flower of Hertfordshire has now vanished from 85% of the sites in the UK where it once grew. This is largely due to agriculture taking over the chalk grasslands that it requires to thrive and/or ineffective habitat management. The pasqueflower needs bare ground to germinate, meaning the land needs to be grazed by sheep. No sheep, no pasqueflowers!
My visit to Therfield Heath
Hertfordshire is a fair way away from me meaning I had to work out the timing of my visit carefully, so that the plants would be flowering. I didn’t want to get there too early, or too late and miss them entirely (even worse!). The flowering season isn’t that long, so it would be easy to inadvertently miss them.
These tiny, nodding, purple flowers, with their furry leaves and petals covered in long, silky hairs, never cease to astound me. None more so than when you see hundreds of pasqueflowers together, like at Therfield Heath.
Surprisingly, there weren’t too many people when I visited the hillside, only a few dog walkers stopping to admire the flowers. Just one other person was taking photos on a camera and another was sitting down, contemplating the beautiful scenery around him.
I will certainly be returning another time to see the Therfield Heath pasqueflowers.
[Update – March 24th 2020: due to coronavirus restrictions I won’t be able to visit the Therfield Heath pasqueflowers in 2020, but I hope to return next year].
Pasqueflower video: Fred Rumsey, Botanist, The Natural History Museum – April 2013