Sunday, 22 August 2010
In Wild Flower Key Rose and O'Reilly describe the flowers as coconut scented. They are but I have only ever picked up the smell at the end of the day as the sun is starting to set. In the morning or middle of the day they have always remained unscented.
The species name of “spiralis” describes the arrangement of flowers in a spiral up the stem. A hand lens or magnifying glass makes it possible to appreciate the crystalline petals that appear through the lens as fresh and crisp as fresh snow. The sparkling white of the petals is further enhanced on a sunny day when light catches the fine layer of downy hairs that cover the ovaries.
There are two distinct kinds of leaves on the plants. Small scale like leaves are on the flower stem. Near to the flower stem you may discern a small rosette of blue-green leaves that carry out most of the photosynthesis for the plant.
Autumn Lady’s-tresses flower from August to September. They are found on calcareous grasslands or sandy dunes. I have found them most often on chalky grassland by the coast. I have heard of colonies growing in graveyards that are lightly maintained by mowing – allowing a short but not overly cropped grassy sward.
At only 7-20cm high when flowering they are not easy to spot. Stopping to look closer at what appears to be a short grass flower head can often lead to their discovery. The fine details of the white petals with the lower lip marked with a green centre are only discernable at close range.