Snake’s head fritillaries
Wildlife this month - April
April is the month that plants of the woodland floor rush to complete their flowering cycle before the full leaf cover returns to the trees above them.
Look out for:
- Delicate wood anemones that can carpet the woodland floor with their attractive white flowers
- Ramsons (wild garlic) that will also be in flower, adding a light garlic perfume to the air and a stronger smell if they are bruised or damaged
- Wild daffodils will be flowering in the first weeks of April
- Early bluebells should be out in late April.
Some rarer plants can be found this month.
- The pasque flowers will be out in their restricted chalk and limestone habitats. Although a fairly common garden plant, the wild pasque flower is less robust and now scarce, bearing a large blue anemone-like flower and feathery leaves
- Snake’s head fritillaries will be flowering in their wet meadows during April. Fritillaries are sadly reduced to a few protected sites but where they do grow they can be found in huge numbers and provide a spectacular site
Britain is home to over fifty species of wild orchid and the early flowering species can be seen this month.
- The early purple orchid is often a robust plant, usually with heavily spotted leaves. Look on woodland edges and commons for the early purple orchid
- The superficially similar green-winged orchid, often seen in association with cowslips, is usually more delicate in stature than the early purple, does not have spotted leaves and bears distinctive green lines on its side petals. Look for the green wing in limestone or chalk grassland where traditional grazing keeps the grass short.
- The rare early spider orchid, despite its odd name, is in fact designed to mimic a species of bee and attracts a passionate partner who is fooled into pollinating the plant in exchange for a presumably less than satisfactory romantic liaison! The early spider is restricted to southern England, particularly Dorset and Kent, but was once more widely spread and may still await rediscovery elsewhere.
All grassland orchids require low nutrient soils and grazing to control more vigorous competing plants.
In April most of the over-wintering birds will leave us as they head back to their breeding grounds in Africa and elsewhere.
In exchange, the summer migrants will begin to arrive in good numbers, including:
- Sand martins and house martins
- Several species of warbler.
The first broods of blue tits will hatch this month, with the breeding season now getting into full swing the weather will dictate success.
As the weather warms more butterflies will appear, including the small tortoiseshell and peacock. Look out too for the orange tip, speckled wood and brimstone.