Nature’s bride-tossed bouquet*

On the marshes in Aldeburgh in Suffolk there was a solitary tree-sized elder, full of small birds. A single twig reached leftwards against the sky, and provided a convenient perch for a just-fledged bluetit chick:

Juvenile blue tits

Last weekend the elderflowers (Sambucus nigra) were still in full bloom in the hedgerows:


Close up, the flowerheads are exquisite:


A sedge warbler posed on the same elder-twig:


In Sussex, in the elder-bordered fields, I found these exquisite flowers. I doubt if many of you can guess what they are?

Dock flowers

They are the flowers of dock plants, Rumex obtusifolius. They are no-one’s favorite: scruffy, hard to eradicate weeds, with tall skinny greenish-brownish flowerheads covered in minute unimpressive flowers that we rarely stop to admire. The flowers redden as they mature into these miniature bells. No-one writes poems about dock flowers, but next time, look closely.

In England of course, we pick the elderflowers for elderflower cordial, delicious drunk on its own or with champagne. Here is Jamie Oliver’s recipe:

* My title comes from the first verse of a poem by Malachy Reynolds,  The Elderflower’s Lament. 

I am the elderflower
Wedded to the hedgerows
Nature’s bride-tossed bouquet.
Not gaudy like the rose….

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