When they are not flowering, the wild plants die back or merge into the background, coming to life again to mark the seasons with their colourful contribution. There is no end to the pleasure of walking around the fields and woodlands, looking at the endless range of plants, many of them tiny, which contribute in turn to the natural splendour of the island. The varied shapes of the plants are part of the attraction, and each season has some specially interesting specimens. These are two examples from the spring season.
The tassel hyacinth
In spring from April to June the tassel hyacinths come into their own with their very fine purple heads.
I was fascinated for years by the exquisite round feathery seedhead which would suddenly spread all around the countryside in springtime. Finding out what it was proved to be a challenge. People used to tell me that it was a type of dandelion, but that didn't seem to fit the bill. I had never seen the plant in flower. So far as I could see it consisted only of a stem with a slim head of spindles (seen to the front left of the picture below) which opened out to form the magnificent globe of the seedhead.
I was resigned to never finding out. After all, its beauty was not affected by my not knowing its name. And as I am very bad at remembering names anyway, perhaps it was not worth while searching. Then I made a chance visit to Marinka Radež's art atelier in Dol, and happened to see a painting in progress of the very plant. And not just the seedhead which had entranced me for all those years, but there was also a flower which I had not been aware of. It turned out that the flower only comes out for a short while during the day. Either I had not recognised it as being on the same plant, or I had always missed it. Marinka did not know what the plant was called, but I had enough clues to narrow my search, and finally tracked it down through an excellent website called the seedsite.
So it was that I identified the mystery feathered spindly globe as a tragopogon. Definitely not a dandelion (taraxacum), although both belong to the Asterales order in the Asteraceae family. The tragopogon is also called salsify or goatsbeard. One member of the species, which consists of over 140 different types, the purple salsify or tragopogon porrifolius, is edible, mainly the root which apparently tastes like oysters, but also young shoots and leaves.
© Vivian Grisogono 2013