Photos can put names to the rarest of wildflowers

Brilliant bluebells.
Brilliant bluebells.
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Out in the countryside and in our garden the bluebells have been brilliant this year.

I hasten to add that it does not follow that we introduced them from the wild, they were here when we arrived years ago, and welcome, because they reflected a life-long love of native wildflowers.

Petty whin, found growing in heather in the Cheviots.

Petty whin, found growing in heather in the Cheviots.

As youngsters living in the countryside we picked bunches of them in springtime and thought nothing of it. Now, rightly so, that practice is frowned on so we take a digital pic. We also preserved leaves and flowers between the pages of books, in the absence of a more costly press.

Then I was introduced to W Keble Martin’s wonderful reference tome The Concise British Flora in Colour. First published in 1965, it represented a lifetime (60 years) of painstaking work by the author, with colour illustrations and text covering 1,486 species.

With colour plates and index of botanical and common names, who could fail to identify even the most obscure of specimens?

This book has been constantly picked up for research over four decades, but has always been handled gently in keeping with the work of art it is.

I reached for it last week on returning from our latest walk in the Cheviots, to confirm the identity of a small plant found growing in the heather – the sample being photographed not picked.

Friend Jim, the high-hills walker, who has always illuminated our expeditions with his knowledge of place, flora and fauna, had correctly identified it as petty whin (genista anglica). Keble Martin helped fill in the detail as usual.