Tuesday, 19 April 2011

a good year for blackthorn blossom

This has been an exceptional spring for blossom.

Blackthorn (prunus spinosa) is the earliest flowering of our native trees and it has been in abundant bloom since February and is still going strong. Blackthorn is a signature plant of traditional hedgerows and we included it in our boundary hedge. It has a suckering habit that means it forms bulky clumps that don't always follow the lines of the hedgerow. Left unchecked it can create impenetrable spiny thickets that are great for wildlife. The blackthorn produces mini-damsons that are bitter to the taste: sloes.

The drought we have had in March and April so far has been the main reason  for this exceptionally long blossoming. Rain is great for the soil but brings blossom to a halt. We have also missed spring frosts this year and frost is another reason that blossom finishes early.

This prolonged period of blossom will be of huge benefit for insects and we have seen lots of butterfly activity already so far - no doubt stimulated by the very warm weather and the availability of nectar from early blossom. Commas typically use blackthorn as an energy source.

Bees too will be benefiting from this early bumper harvest and the early swarming I have already discussed may be a response to this.

Also benefiting will be makers of sloe gin, come the autumn.

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