Species of the Month - March 2017
forms large patches in damp places at low altitude. The flower
spikes emerge between February and early April, and the leaves begin to
emerge about the same time but don't reach full size until after the
flowers have finished. The leaves eventually become as big as
rhubarb leaves and cover the ground over a large area, forming unbroken
shade which prevents other plants from growing between them. The
leaves arise singly, not in tufts from a crown like those of rhubarb.
Butterbur provides a
feast for bumblebees at a time when few other plants are in flower.
On a sunny day a patch of Butterbur is a good place to watch the
behaviour of bees and other early spring insects.
Each flowering spike
has many closely-packed inflorescences, which themselves consist of 20
or more tubular male flowers in the centre and a few rayed female
flowers around the edge. In some parts of Britain there is another
form of Butterbur with about 100 female flowers in the inflorescence and
only a few male ones, but that form does not occur in our area.
A patch of leaves which have almost reached their full size after the flowers have died down.
Each inflorescence is surrounded by a pinkish-gold involucre, and has a
narrow pink bract at its base.
This is Winter Heliotrope, an introduced species similar to Butterbur but with much shorter flowering spikes consisting of only about 10 inflorescences, not closely packed together. It can flower as early as December but continues through March. Its leaves form large patches like those of Butterbur, but each leaf is only to about 20 cm wide, whereas those of Butterbur can be up to 100 cm. It tends to be in drier and less flat places than Butterbur, often on roadside banks.
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Mar 5: Found by Lynsey Gibson, plentiful along canal bank at Ardrishaig
Mar 6: Found by Mary Redman: Poking up by the path going down to Machir bay, Islay. Just by a burn
Mar 21: Large patch between road and shore at Ardchattan, Carl
Mar 26: Very plentiful along road from Ardfern road end to Kintraw and beyond, Carl