” ‘Is the spring coming?’ he said. ‘What is it like?’ … ‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.’ ” (Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden)
It’s the beginning of February, and signs of spring are emerging slowly. Along with snowdrops and hazel catkins, Alder catkins add a lovely splash of colour to our landscape early in the year.
Typically found in wet areas near rivers, ponds and lakes, Alder also thrives in damp, cool areas such as marshes, wet woodland and streams.
Historically, the green dye from the flowers was used to colour and camouflage the clothes of outlaws like Robin Hood, and was thought to also colour the clothes of fairies.
Alder is “monoecious” – it produces both male and female flowers on the same tree. The male flowers or catkins are a greenish mustard in colour, and the female flowers are much smaller in size, cone-shaped and red. When pollinated by the wind, the female flowers become green fruits, which gradually become woody and eventually release small reddish-brown seeds. The empty cones can remain on the tree until the following spring – Alder is the only British native deciduous tree to develop cones. Mother Nature is amazing for sure.
What signs of spring have you spotted this week?