Wood anemones

The wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, a close cousin to all the buttercups.

It is a species native to British broadleaved woodlands, an early flowerer that blooms briefly in March or April, before the tree canopy becomes too dense. Hoverflies and bees, its main pollinators, love its white flowers and spiral masses of yellow, pollen-rich stamens but, while it sets seed easily once it has been pollinated, the seed seems to be mostly infertile. The plants, therefore spread slowly through the horizontal growth of underground stems called rhizomes.

We are inclined to think of it as a common species that carpets our local woodland with thousands, perhaps millions, of blooms every spring, but around here, in the south west of the country, wood anemones spread very slowly indeed, sometimes no more than a couple of metres a century. Its presence in any numbers, therefore, is taken as a strong and important indicator of ancient woodland. If your walk in the woods takes you through colonies of wood anemones as far as you can see, you are walking through what has become one of our rarest and most threatened habitats.

We need to take note of wood anemones when we find them. Their presence is precarious: permit any disturbance of their ancient woodland home and they will vanish.

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