A Hillside of Perfect Purple Pasque Flowers

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Last year I discovered that I live very close to one of the largest colonies of pasque flowers in the country. Of course I hasten along to investigate and enjoy the delightful spectacle and this year I have kept a vague eye on the Therfield Heath website for news of their blooming. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the first flowers had been spotted, so I took the opportunity to visit the site again at the weekend while the sun was shining and the flowers fully open.

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A purple haze of pasque flowers on Therfield Heath, 2017

And the show is fantastic! Miles better than last year. The hillside is positively thick with the flowers. Indeed, they are so numerous that there seem to be an ever deepening purple haze ahead of you as you follow the track round the contour of the hill.

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Last year this view was much more sparse

I met a couple who have been coming to see the pasque flowers here for 50 years and they say that they have never seen a better show.

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The perfect satiny purple petals of Pulsatilla vulgaris

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The south facing side of the hill

Many people were visiting the site in spite of the appearance of these carefully timed photos. For instance, I met a U3A (University of the Third Age) group comparing notes as I was leaving and there is some damage caused by the wear and tear of footsteps on the hillside, but most people were at least following the narrow trails.

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The purple haze is evident as you look west along the curve of the hill

Everyone was taking photos of course and there was some impressive kit being lugged around. But it is a prickily affair taking close-ups at ground level due to the number of dried, stiff carlina thistles still around.

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Happily, there was a satisfying buzz of pollinating activity from bees, bumblebees and other insects. So hopefully there will be a good crop of seeds.

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Red-tailed bumblebee visiting a pasque flower on Therfield Heath, 2017

Set against this, the prevalent Heath snail, Helicella itala was very much in evidence and causes some small amount of damage.

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Heath snail, Helicella itala, enjoying some purple petals

And on a positive note, the fencing put up a couple of years ago to prevent rabbit damage, seems to be working very well.

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Note: Pasque flowers are now rare in the UK due to changes in land use and the loss of grazed chalk or limestone grassland. They are classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and as Vulnerable in Britain on the Red Data List.

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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24 Responses to A Hillside of Perfect Purple Pasque Flowers

  1. susurrus says:

    I remember this magnificent sight from last year, I think – it’s so good to know they are doing better than ever. I’ve been looking out for them on my travels but so far have had no luck. I did see one in a garden centre, but that doesn’t really count.

    • Yes it is brilliant to see them thriving on that unassuming hillside (unlike the one that I bought for my garden a few years ago which seems to have done a disappearing act!)

  2. These are stunning. I have never seen them before. Thank you for introducing them.😊

  3. Great hillside! We love that Heath Snail! 🙂

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, stunning! I remember your post from last year and am impressed to see this year’s success. You mentioned ‘wear and tear on the hillside’… aren’t there signs or volunteer monitors warning people to stay off the slope (even though it’s obvious)? That might be just an American thing… we have signs for everything, assuming nothing.

    • There are no signs as you approach the hill, except to keep to the path in the beech wood where the orchids grow. On the Heath website they simply say ‘On the Hill please tread carefully when walking amongst the flowers’. On the other hand, there are no signs anywhere saying ‘this way to the pasque flowers’!

  5. I’ve only been to Cambridge in the autumn or winter, and have never seen these flowers – loved this post 🙂

  6. Sue says:

    Wow, what a beautiful flower! It would be amazing to see these flowers like that on the hillside in person. Such a shame they are now considered to be rare. Love the photos of the snail and the bumblebee too.

    • Yes, it is sad to know that so many of nature’s displays are being eroded by our activities, but am I very happy the ‘Conservators of the Heath’ are taking care of making sure this one survives.

  7. Wonderful to see rarities like these! Silly bumblebee made me laugh…going full hog!

  8. Brian Skeys says:

    How wonderful to have a site like that near you.

  9. Cathy says:

    Oh how I wish I could see it myself! Your pictures are the next best thing, so thanks so much for posting.

  10. Your post last year was memorable, so, oh, how wonderful to see how many more flowers there are this year.

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