At the beginning of the week we woke to white across the ground – it had snowed! The light fall of snow had gone by mid-morning. Yet our hedgerows still look as if they are dusted with snow. Hedgerows often have several different species of plant along their length. You can tell where there is blackthorn as at that point the hedge has dark branches covered with masses of white blossom. Blackthorns are unusual in that they flower before they grow their leaves and, as their name suggests, have dark trunks and branches. The result is that their white blossoms stand out, with no gentle green of leaves to soften the effect. They offer us and insects that depend on them the promise of spring.
Have you stopped to look closer at blackthorns’ blossoms? I was rushing down Green Lane past a hedge covered with flowers, almost oblivious to its beauty because of its familiarity. I stopped for a moment and was overwhelmed by the masses of blossom and the hum of insects delighting in the nectar that they offer.
If you are not sure if you are looking at blackthorn, look along the branches and if it is blackthorn you will see vicious thorns – which are actually branches, adapted to protect its leaves from browsers, its fruits from those who would eat them.
Blackthorns offer beauty now. In the autumn they produce deep blue-purple sloes. For birds these provide a serious carbohydrate hit. For gin lovers, they are just what is needed to make homemade sloe gin, ready to provide inner warmth when the snow really comes.
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