Did Wordsworth get it right this month: “While earth herself is adorning, This sweet May morning” or do you prefer the old adage “Cast not a clout ‘til May is out”?
Of the many wildflowers I find the umbelliferous family the most difficult to identify. Some members of this group of plants are very poisonous so it is best not to make mistakes! Among the first to flower is Queen Anne’s Lace otherwise known as Cow Parsley. It’s got a feathery leaf to distinguish it; you can find plenty alongside Averyhill Road and the south boundary of the park. The other May flowering umbel, Ground Elder, has much bigger rounded leaves, there are some nice patches around the wooden seat in Henley’s Meadow.
There will be plenty of flowers to be seen in the park this month, my favourites are Bluebell and Dandelion; why do I choose Dandelion? It’s one of the few plants that has a use for each of its parts. The roots were roasted and ground up in WW2 to make a coffee substitute; the young leaves are good in salads, the flowers make a tasty wine and the seeds are a good fun game for children. Don’t tell me you’ve never played “Dandelion clocks”! Look for Bluebells along our hedgerows and the many corners of woodland. Dandelions are our most frequent lawn weed. This month the hedgerows will be covered with the white flowers of the Hawthorn trees. The country name for this tree is “May”, hardly surprising really!
Other trees in flower this month, Beech, Oak, Sycamore, Poplar, Plane and Holly.
May is the month our bats come out of hibernation. Our park is a real hotspot, well worth the effort to come out at dusk when you can see Noctule, Serotine and both Common and Soprano Pippistrelles. Avery Hill Park is 19th in south east England for Noctule numbers. Plumstead Common is no.2! While you walk around the park; look out for any holes in the trees with a dark stain below the hole. This is the “give away” sign of a bat roost. Bird nesting holes will have no stains below them. We have 6 bat roosts around the park; you’ll see them more easily if you walk anticlockwise from the café.
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.