Monday 30 March 2015

Coltsfoot at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes

One of the earliest flowers to bloom at NWT Thorpe Marshes isn’t a marsh plant. Coltsfoot grows in disturbed ground, and there’s a little patch of it beside the River Yare. Elsewhere you might see it on what are often termed ‘brownfield sites’ – ruderal conditions, in botanical speak.

Coltsfoot, photo by Chris Durdin
Oddly, whenever I first see coltsfoot it reminds me of when I saw the Beach Boys in concert one damp night in Thetford Forest. Bear with me on this. Lead singer Mike Love talked about how the group could sing acapella: unaccompanied by instruments in musical parlance but meaning, he claimed, ‘without clothes’. As I understand it, ‘a capella’ means ‘of the chapel’, which rather ruins the story!

Without clothes sums up the early flowers of coltsfoot as the sunny looking dandelion-like flowers appear, in March, before the leaves. Those stalked leaves have a distinctive style, coming straight from the ground, rhubarb-like, and have a pale, felty underside. They are said to resemble a colt’s foot, though with angular teeth the hoof shape takes some imagining.

Birds at Thorpe Marshes during March have included barn owl, bittern and jack snipe, with dusk the best time for all of these.

Latest news and details of Thorpe Marshes monthly walks are on

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