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It is a real Ridgeway highlight to see one of the UK’s most magnificent and rare wildflowers blooming in Spring from March through to June. With the name ‘Pasque Flower’ associated with Passover (‘pasakh’ in Hebrew), the Easter holidays are a good time to look for the plant that is also known as the ‘Easter flower’. Watch this Natural History Museum video to see the flower growing in Hertfordshire and hear about why it is a special sight.

The flower is large, purple, hairy and bell-shaped with contrasting golden stamens in the centre. The flowers open in the morning to track the sun across the sky and then close for the night. After pollination, the flowerhead grows taller and develops into a delicately fluffy seed head standing proud above the surrounding grass.

Despite producing lots of seeds, new plants rarely establish from seeds in the wild and the few existing colonies in the UK are carefully conserved. Populations are confined to long-established, wildflower-rich grasslands on chalk hills, often on steep slopes. Conservationists seeking to boost the numbers re-introduced the plant to a nature reserve a short distance off the Trail at Hartslock near Goring in Oxfordshire. Lucky Ridgeway visitors may spot the plant in nature reserves along the Trail and, being rare and legally protected, its important not to trample or pick them!

Such long-established grasslands are also places where prehistoric archaeology such as hillforts, barrows and boundary banks have survived undisturbed. Over the centuries, Pasque Flowers growing in these places have become intertwined with stories of Romans and Vikings. The discovery of a Viking hoard near Watlington in Oxfordshire suggests Vikings may well have been along The Ridgeway….perhaps a few drops of blood were spilt?

Banner image credit Malin Vretblad Plesse, Wikicommons.

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