Wednesday 21 August 2013

Purple haze

Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes

“When I am an old I shall wear purple,” is an opening line to a poem that came to mind visiting NWT Thorpe Marshes in August. Looking up the poem, I found it actually says “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple,” but you get the idea.

Purple loosestrife with red-tailed bumbleebee and hoverfly

The ungrazed marsh at NWT Thorpe Marshes is at its most colourful best this time of year, and is dominated by purple and pink. Spires of purple loosestrife are the most obvious, but there’s a supporting purple cast of marsh woundwort, water mint and red bartsia, which is purplish, despite its name. The boldest pink is hemp agrimony and there is willowherb in profusion.

Upright hedge parsley bristles

A favourite of mine is the subtle pinky-purple of the hooked seedpods of the umbellifer upright hedge parsley. These need magnifying to appreciate, and a close-up photo is one way. Another is a hand lens, for which I find looking through the wrong end of binoculars is a good substitute.

Three in a row: peacock, comma and painted lady
There’s another purple flower which can’t be ignored – buddleia, the butterfly bush. The down side is that it’s an invasive alien and is all too common in the scrub that invades ungrazed areas of the reserve. But the butterflies on the big buddleias by the public footpath at the start of the reserve have been a delight this summer. With up to 100 peacocks among some 10 butterfly species, buddleia has been in the forefront of this summer’s line-up of purple plants.

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