Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Butterbur - A Female Flower Spike

You may have been wondering what a Butterbur female flower spike looks like(?). Well, I found this rather fine specimen on the river bank, at Stretford, yesterday and thought I'd post a photograph.

These particular flowers have probably already been fertilised as the local male flower spikes are already turning brown and are fading (suggesting that they have shed their pollen). In the next few weeks the female spike will elongate into a 'tassel' and produce seeds to be dispersed on the wind.

Dave Bishop, March 2009

Friday, 27 March 2009


A plant which is appearing and coming into flower now, in late March, is the Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). Although it is fairly closely related to Coltsfoot (see my article dated 19th March 2009) it is an altogether stranger affair. There is something a bit fungoid about it and, indeed Geoffrey Grigson (1) reports that that an old Dorset name for it is ‘Early Mushroom’ – and it’s not hard to see why. It is particularly common on the river banks and some of the few (relatively) undisturbed areas that we have left.
Butterbur, like Holly (see my article dated 26th February 2009), is dioecious, that is male and female flowers occur on different plants. The squatter, pinker male plants tend to turn brown and shrivel once they have shed their pollen whilst the taller, more open female flower-spikes tend to elongate into ‘tassels’ once they have been fertilised and begin to bear seed. The top picture shows three male flower spikes whilst the bottom picture shows a group of female plants whose flowers have recently been fertilised. I have observed, over the years, that males and females tend to form separate colonies. A few years ago, near to the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, there used to be a colony of male plants right next to a colony of female plants. I used to picture them as a group of nervous teenagers eyeing each other across a dance floor. Unfortunately, this site is now overgrown with brambles and the Butterbur is gone.
Once the business of reproduction is over, both sexes produce huge, rhubarb-like leaves (which I will discuss in a later article).
It is a curious fact that while Butterbur is quite common in many parts of the UK, female plants tend to be less so. As Professor Clive Stace (2) puts it: “male plant frequent throughout most of [the] B[ritish] I[sles]; female plant frequent in N[orth] & C[entral] E[ngland], very sporadic elsewhere.”
Fifty years ago, in a classic book on British wild flowers (3), John Gilmour and Max Walters discussed this distribution; they wrote:
“Professor Valentine has shown ... that the male plant of this species occurs quite commonly throughout the British Isles, but the female plant has a curiously restricted distribution, chiefly in the north-west of England – it is, for example, quite common around Manchester. Within this main area the female plants apparently produce abundant seed which in tests has germinated freely to give both male and female plants in the progeny. Valentine suggests that the restriction of the female must be due to some climatic factor which does not operate in the same way on the more adaptable males. He also suggests that some of the wide distribution of the male plant may be due to its having been planted to provide early nectar for bees.”
I am not aware of any more recent work on this question – but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been carried out (any information gratefully received).
Nevertheless, Butterbur is not only a curious and interesting plant but it is also, as the above passage suggests, of great local significance. It is a very characteristic of the Mersey Valley and is, I would also suggest, a key element of our local biodiversity.

Dave Bishop, March 2009

1. ‘The Englishman’s Flora’ by Geoffrey Grigson, Paladin 1975 (first pub. 1958)

2. ‘New Flora of the British Isles’ by Clive Stace, Cambridge University Press, 1991

3. ‘Wild Flowers’ by John Gilmour and Max Walters, Collins, 1959

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ted Brooks: Local Bird Photographer

Last week I was walking near Sale Water Park and met a man photographing the herons on Broad Ees Dole. Seeing that he was using a rather nice digital SLR and a long lens, and me being a complete camera 'geek', I stopped to have a chat and to compare cameras. He introduced himself as Ted Brooks and told me that he lives in Chorlton. I asked him how he got interested in bird photography and he said:

"I am a member of Chorlton Golf Club and in 2003 I was made captain. After a very good year I found that I was getting very tired when playing golf. It was confirmed that I was diabetic so I decided to have a holiday in Kenya and it took off from there. As for photography, I have been interested and was semi-pro since the mid 1950s up to 1966 when I moved from London to Manchester."

I then told him about FoCM and this blog and mentioned that I thought that we didn't have enough pictures of birds and he very generously offered to send me some. I have posted Ted's beautiful pictures on the Picasa web album attached to the blog. To see these pictures go to:

I am particularly pleased to be able to post some pictures of the kingfishers which are such a feature of Chorlton Brook and elsewhere: they are our very own 'living jewels' and never fail to delight everyone who sees them. I have long dreamed of taking such pictures myself - but Ted has beaten me to it!

Dave Bishop, March 2009

Friday, 20 March 2009

Snakes in the Valley: South Manchester Reptiles survey

It feels like spring has well and truly sprung into life this week with bumble bees fizzing around, more flowers emerging and the arrival of summer migrant birds such as the chiff chaff, but one question that some of the Friends are mulling over is are there any snakes or lizards in The Mersey Valley?

The answer is, we don’t know, and no one, we think, has previously carried out a survey to try and find out. In light of this, throughout the spring and early summer, a few of us have decided to carry out a survey which we hope will go some of the way to answering the question.

The UK only has 6 native reptiles, and we can say with a degree of certainty that if we are extremely lucky we might find 1 or 2 species in the Mersey Valley. Why? Because the others are either extremely rare and localized, like the smooth snake, or have very specific habitat requirements, like the sand lizard. Species that we might find are common lizard (Lacerta vivipara), slow worm (Anguis fragilis) and grass snake (Natrix natrix). For more detailed pictures and descriptions of all native reptiles visit: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/identification.htm

All reptiles are cold blooded, a characteristic in finding them we hope to exploit! They need to get enough warmth and energy into their bodies to move and go looking for food. The common lizard, for example, likes to bathe on sunny banks. Therefore, to maximise our chances of having positive surveys, we will be placing pieces artificial refugia on certain habitats. In other words, pieces of corrugated tin and tiles of carpet will be dotted around the meadows and a few other selected sites in the valley. Reptiles use these objects to either hide under, or to bask on so they can warm up enough to become active. Another element in successfully surveying for reptiles is the weather. It’s no good looking on a sunny, warm day because they will be active and unlikely to be seen, similarly on cool, wet days they will be hiding away conserving energy. The perfect weather is broken cloud and not too warm, whether that be early in the morning in the summer, or the middle of a spring day. On these days reptiles have to spend much more time basking, and the pieces of tin and carpet are places where we might find them doing just that.

Any findings will of course be posted onto the blog, but if you want more information about amphibians and reptiles then there are some useful links below, including a link to the recently formed Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Manchester.

If you, or anyone you know, has any sightings of reptiles in and around the Mersey Valley area, please let us know – any such data will of great use to our survey.

Richard Gardner

Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Manchester

Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire

The Herpetological Conservation Trust

Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I spotted my first Coltsfoot flowers of the year today. They were at Hardy Farm on a patch of land adjacent to the river and near to Jackson’s Boat Bridge. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is an early (but, as we have seen, by no means the earliest) spring flower. It is a member of the botanical family Asteraceae and is, hence, related to Daisies and Dandelions. It is a plant of rough grassland and waste places.

The 17th Century herbalist, John Gerard wrote an excellent description of Coltsfoot in his ‘Herbal’ (1636):

Tussilago or Fole-foot hath many white and long creeping roots, somewhat fat; from which rise up naked stalkes (in the beginning of March and Aprill) about a spanne long, bearing at the top yellow floures, which change into down and are caried away with the winde: when the stalke and seed is perished, there appeare springing out of the earth many broad leaves, greene above, and next the ground of a white hoarie or grayish colour, fashioned like an Horse foot; for which cause it was called Fole-foot and Horse-hoofe: seldome or never shall you find leaves and floures at once, but the flours are past before the leaves come out of the ground ...

Gerard also described “The Vertues” (i.e. the medicinal uses) of Coltsfoot:

A decoction made of the greene leaves and roots, or else a syrup thereof, is good for the cough that proceedeth of a thin rheume.
The green leaves of Fole-foot pound with hony, do cure and heale inflammations.
The fume of the dried leaves taken through a funnell or tunnell, burned upon coles, effectually helpeth those that are troubled with shortnesse of breath, and fetch their wind thicke and often.
Being taken in a manner as they taketh Tobaco, it mightily prevaileth against the diseases aforesaid.

Long before Gerard’s day Coltsfoot had been used in cough remedies and, generally, for diseases of the bronchial tract. The first part of the scientific name, Tussilago, is from tussis – the Latin word for cough. I also believe that the second part of the name, farfara is onomatopoeic – that is it is supposed to represent the sound of someone coughing.
It is still possible to buy ‘Coltsfoot Rock’ as a cough remedy in the UK, but in Central Europe, where they take their herbal remedies very seriously, it is often present in cough syrups. A few years ago I was on holiday in Slovenia (once the northernmost republic of Yugoslavia, but now an independent country). I had had a chest infection and had been left with a persistent cough which was spoiling my holiday. Eventually, I went to a local pharmacist who sold me a bottle of sticky, brown cough medicine. I couldn’t read most of the label (which, of course, was in Slovenian) but I could read the scientific names of the plants (i.e. plant extracts) that it contained; these included Primula veris (Cowslips) and Tussilago farfara. This concoction worked just fine and the cough went away.
I don’t know if anyone these days actually smokes dried Coltsfoot leaves as a remedy for asthma; it seems unlikely – but you never know!

Dave Bishop, March 2009

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Common Whitlowgrass Re-visited

OK, so I've discussed this already - but I went back to the site (the concrete 'raft' on the river bank) a couple of days ago and was amazed by how many more plants had come into flower. Not only that but, in the bright sunshine, all of the flowers were fully open and displaying their characterstic, deeply-notched petals.

It may be my imagination but the plants also seemed to have a 'scent' - and not a very pleasant one. As I got down close to these tiny plants, in order to photograph them (again), I became aware of a faint odour - a bit like acrid, sweaty feet (I'm fairly certain that it wasn't anything to do with my feet!). I've forgotten a lot of my chemistry but I think that the smell may have been characteristic of certain fatty acids (Palmitic or Oleic ... possibly?). Anyway, it's probably a good thing that the plants aren't any bigger or everyone would be complaining about the pong!
Dave Bishop, March 2009

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Spring Crocus

In my article on the Autumn Crocus (1) I related how, in the Middle Ages, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem acquired land in the Southern Pennines. They grew the South Western European species Crocus nudiflorus as a source of saffron which they valued for its medicinal properties. Because I had not seen any evidence for the presence of the Knights of St. John in the Mersey Valley I have always assumed that our Crocus plants were washed down the Pennine watershed in winter floods, and I still think that that is the most likely origin of many of our colonies.
Nevertheless, an article which appeared in a natural history magazine several years ago added a new twist to the story. The article (2) was written by Steve Alton, a Nottinghamshire Conservation Officer. Mr Alton related how C. nudiflorus was once common in the flood meadows of the River Trent near the city of Nottingham but in that location it was usually accompanied by the Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus). It should be noted, of course, that the two species don’t actually flower together but in the spring C. vernus produces both flowers and leaves whilst in the case of C. nudiflorus only the distinctive leaves are visible at that time. In his article Mr Alton states that the Spring Crocus in the Nottingham area appeared to have spread out from Lenton Priory, which was owned not by the Knights of St. John but by monks of the Cluniac order. The priory was founded between 1108 and 1114 by William Peverel, son of William the Conqueror. This order originated in Cluny, in Burgundy (South Western France) where both the Spring and Autumn Crocuses grow wild. In addition it appears that the monks owned two hermitages – one in caves near the priory and the other across the Pennines at Kersall in Salford. This is almost certainly a reference to Kersall Cell in the Irwell Valley. Apparently there was a well-used road between the priory and Kersall and there are nine Autumn Crocus sites along its route.
After reading the article cited above it occurred to me to start looking for Spring Crocuses in the Mersey Valley and, in particular to look for sites where both species grow together.

Before I discuss my findings further I need to describe the Spring species in a bit more detail:
Crocus vernus is a central European species found from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians. It is a mountain plant found around snow patches and in mountain meadows and sub-alpine woods. It is taxonomically quite complex with many variants and at least two subspecies (3). Flowers colours range from purple through lilac to pure white; some plants are purple with white stripes. A major problem with looking for colonies which might be old is the fact that this species is still being planted as an ornamental and such planting could have occurred any time in the last century or so. Nevertheless, modern cultivars tend to be larger than the wild types and they are often planted with a yellow species (usually the hybrid Crocus x stellaris).
In Nottingham two of the areas where both Crocus species have lingered on are in churchyards and cemeteries, so I made a point of looking in Mersey Valley churchyards and cemeteries. My findings are as follows:

Heaton Mersey

There is a colony of Spring Crocuses in an overgrown site off Vale Road opposite an industrial estate. I’m not sure what the history of this site is except that there were bleach works in this area (hardly relevant, one would think, in this context). When I first found this site in the mid 1990s the plant colonies were clearly visible at the bases of some old gate posts but when Priscilla Tolfree and I visited it again a couple of years ago the plants were just holding their own against a sea of invading Ivy.

St. James Churchyard and Fletcher Moss Gardens, Didsbury

Apparently both the church and the churchyard have been much altered during the last few centuries (4) but there are a small handful of Spring Crocuses to be found in the upper part of the churchyard closest to the church. At the western end of the yard, furthest from the church, and at a lower elevation, there are some groups with the large cultivars and the yellow flowered hybrid, characteristic of modern plantings, referred to above.
On the lawn in front of the Old Parsonage nearby there is a large drift of Spring Crocuses of the ‘wild’ type – could these have been moved there during one of the periods when the churchyard was being altered? I suppose that this is possible but it must remain pure speculation.

Ford Lane and St. Wilfrid’s Churchyard, Northenden

Northenden is a ‘Crocus Hotspot’! The bank on the south side of Ford Lane (the opposite side from the river), near Didsbury Golf Course, is a good site for C. nudiflorus and slightly further on, around a gate leading on to the Golf Course, is a magnificent display of C. vernus (see top photograph above). These two populations do overlap slightly and are the best example that I know of the two species growing together in this area.
St. Wilfrid’s churchyard, in Northenden itself, has a huge population of C. vernus. I visited this churchyard most recently on Friday 6th March, 2009 and was greatly impressed by the magnificent and very beautiful drifts of this species. Equally impressive was the fact that, even this early in the spring, the flowers were being visited by a huge swarm of honey bees. Also present in the same churchyard was another species, C. tommasinianus (5). I suspect that some of the flowers that I saw were, in fact, hybrids between the two species. This is worrying because, in time, there is a chance that the C. vernus plants could be ‘hybridised-out’.

Southern Cemetery, Chorlton

This cemetery is rich in spring bulbs, particularly the north eastern boundary, adjacent to Nell Lane. There is little doubt that most of these have been planted fairly recently, by the local authorities, but there are drifts of C. vernus which I suspect may be older. There is certainly evidence that a substantial population of C. vernus was present in this area in the mid 19th century because the botanist Leo Grindon recorded such a population from “... a meadow opposite the gable of Hough End Hall” (6). I think that there is a very good chance that the Southern Cemetery plants are the remains of the same population. Again there is worrying evidence that these historic plants are being ‘hybridised-out’ by C. tommasinianus.

St. Michael’s Churchyard, Flixton

There is another population of C. vernus in this churchyard and Priscilla Tolfree found C. nudiflorus on the golf course nearby.

So, what are we to conclude? Frankly, it’s very difficult to know. The situation is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with many lost pieces. There may well have been (at least) two religious/monastic orders locally, who, between them, introduced two Crocus species into the Manchester area, almost certainly as a source of saffron. It will take a far, far better historian than me to sort it out! Nevertheless, I feel that these plants have great significance both in terms of local biodiversity and local history and heritage.

Dave Bishop, March 2009


1. ‘The Autumn Crocus’ - FoCM Blog, Saturday 20th September, 2008

2. ‘Crocus Connections’ by Steve Alton, ‘Natural World’ No. 38, Autumn 1993

3. ‘The Genus Crocus’ by Brian Mathew, Batsford, 1982

4. ‘A History of Didsbury’ by Ivor R. Million, Didsbury Civic Society & E.J. Morten, 1969

5. ‘The Early Spring Crocus’ – FoCM Blog, Saturday 21st February, 2009

6. ‘The Manchester Flora’ by Leo H. Grindon, William White, 1859

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A Glimpse of the Mersey Valley 50 Years Ago Today

A couple of years ago Phil Robinson, of Chorlton Civic Society, knowing of my interest in the Mersey Valley, passed on to me a black, loose-leaved folder which he had found among the archives of the Civic Society. The folder contained details of a study performed 50 years ago by a local lady named Hilda F. Broady. Mrs Broady had chosen a small area (which she refers to as, “the plot”), in what she called “Chorlton Meadows”, and studied the wildlife of that spot at regular intervals over the course of the year 1959. The spot that she chose was not technically in the Meadows but was in ‘Barlow Wood’, the site of an ancient wood above the Mersey floodplain. Barlow Wood is now off limits to the public because it is within the boundaries of Chorlton Golf Course. The study gives an interesting insight into which plants and other wildlife were present 50 years ago and I have decided post it (in instalments) on the Friends of Chorlton Meadows blog because of its intrinsic interest and because I think that it should be better known. I will post each instalment on the days corresponding to those on which Mrs Broady surveyed her plot in 1959.
Some local Chorlton people have told me that they remember Mrs Broady and it is likely that she was a school teacher who probably lived in Chorltonville. There is always the possibility that some people, including Mrs Broady’s surviving relatives, may object to this work being published on the FoCM blog and if so they should contact me and, if necessary, I will gladly delete it. Nevertheless, they should know that I post it in the spirit of greatest respect for Mrs Broady, her work and her curiosity, and for the fact that she obviously loved the Mersey Valley and its wildlife as much as I do. I sincerely hope that she would approve.

Mrs Broady’s journal commences with a section entitled, “Some Interesting Historical Facts About The Site Of The Plot”

The hamlet of Hardy consisted of groups of cottages between Hardy Farm and Jackson’s Boat, the last of which were taken down shortly after the flood of 1854 [this date is indistinct in the original typescript and could be ‘1954’ – must check - ed.] when Chorlton Meadows were flooded to a depth of about three feet.
According to Whittaker, the word “Hardy” is derived from the name of that ancient Forest of Arden, but as the settlers in Manchester cleared away the woods, detached patches of the thicket were left standing here and there. One of these skirted the Mersey in this district, hence the name “Hardie.”
Barlow Wood is the only remains of the ancient Forest of Arden left standing in the district. The tract of low lying land behind Barlow Hall up to Jackson’s Boat is known by the name of Barlow Leys, which was formerly of a marshy character, and used by the farmers of the village as a ley for their cattle, but about 1822 it was drained and placed under cultivation. Barlow Hall stands on the top of a series of slopes stretching to the river.
Mr. Thomas Ellwood traced the history of the township from the year 610, when it became colonised by the Saxons, “who disencumbered the land of its ancient oaks,” to the present time (1922) remarking that in the spring time of 1865, when he first came to Chorlton, the acres of orchards in bloom made it one of the prettiest villages he had seen.
Barlow Wood is now skirted on one side by the golf links, and on another side by Council house property.

The Journal

8th March 1959

After surveying Chorlton Meadows, a plot was chosen in a spot known as “Barlow Wood”.
It was a bitterly cold day, and the ground was very cold and dry. The grass, which was short and only a few inches high, appeared parched. I tried to uproot some plants but the ground was too hard to manage without digging tools.
There is a tree in bud on the plot, and another half-dead tree. There are a number a number of similar woody shoots which I cannot yet name. There is the bed of a stream, which is completely dry and the ground hard.
Shoots identified as Sycamore – Acer Pseudoplatanus.

For comparison, the weather on the on the 8th March 2009 was cool, windy and overcast by mid-day. Around lunchtime there was a heavy shower and around 2:30 pm there was a brief hailstorm .
The above was obviously just a preliminary survey and Mrs Broady next surveyed her plot on the 1st April 1959 and I will try to post the next instalment on the 1st April 2009 – ed.

Posted by Dave Bishop, 8th March 2009

Friday, 6 March 2009

Wind Pollination

Many flowering plants are insect pollinated. The flowers attract insects through visual cues, scent and nectar. Once attracted the insect picks up sticky pollen grains from the flower’s stamens (the male parts of the flower). On visiting a second flower the pollen grains are deposited on the stigma (the female part of the flower) and, hence, the flower is ‘pollinated’ (i.e. fertilised). Subsequently fruits and seeds develop.
Some plants, though, are wind pollinated. Most British tree species are wind pollinated, as are grass species and some species of flowering herb. Many wind pollinated tree species produce ‘catkins’ which are long, dangling, pollen-bearing ‘tassels’. The catkins are composed of many scale-like structures between which are the stamens. Once the catkin is fully extended it dangles in the wind, the scales open and the pollen is displaced from between them by air currents. Some of this air-borne pollen eventually encounters a female flower, which is equipped with stigmas, and pollination occurs. These female flowers are usually carried on the same tree but separately from the male catkins.
Wind pollination is immensely ‘inefficient’ in terms of pollen production. Huge amounts of pollen is produced, much of which is wasted because it fails to encounter a receptive stigma. It has been estimated that a single Hazel catkin produces nearly four million pollen grains. Pollen grains from wind pollinated plants are, proportionally, much smaller than those produced by insect pollinated plants and they tend to be smooth rather than sticky. Subtle mechanisms are in place to avoid auto-fertilisation (there is more information on this in the references).
Many wind pollinated trees produce their catkins early in the year before the trees’ leaves appear. This avoids the possibility of leaf surfaces trapping, or impeding the progress of, pollen grains through the air.
In late February to mid March two excellent examples of wind pollinated trees in the Mersey Valley are Hazel (Corylus avellana) and Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa). The top photograph shows seven Hazel catkins. The female flowers are tiny, scarlet brush-like structures and there is one near the top right of the photograph and another near the extreme left. Once pollinated these gradually develop into Hazel nuts.
The bottom photograph shows Alder catkins. This time the female flowers are small, red, bristly ovoid structures near the centre of the photograph. Once fertilised these develop into small, woody ‘cones’ (rather like miniature fir cones). Last year’s cones are still present and are visible near the top right of the photograph.
The most ‘historic’ Hazels in this area are probably those along Hawthorn Lane (the old border between Chorlton and Stretford). These have been grievously ‘hacked about’, in recent years, by the local authorities (who probably don’t know what they are, don’t understand their significance and probably wouldn’t care if they did!).
Some of the finest Alders are on the little triangle of land formed where Chorlton Brook flows into the Mersey. I am convinced that these are self-seeded. This is a reminder that Alders tend to be found along water courses because the seeds are water-proof and buoyant and float down-stream until they lodge in the bank. Alders can happily grow in water-logged ground and have nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots. If you take a train journey, at this time of year, look out for a sort of ‘reddish haze’ above water courses - the effect of millions of Alder catkins and female flowers.

Dave Bishop, March 2009.


1. ‘The Pollination of Flowers’ by Michael Proctor & Peter Yeo, Collins 1973

2. ‘The Biology of Flowers’ by Eigil Holm & Thomas Bredsdorff, Penguin 1979

3. ‘How Flowers Work’ by Bob Gibbons, Blandford Press 1984

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Common Whitlowgrass

Here's a very early spring flower which you would be forgiven for not noticing. This is because it is only a few cm high and easily overlooked.

Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna) is not a 'grass' at all but a member of the Cabbage Family (Brassicaceae); I'm not sure what it has to do with 'whitlows' - it was probably used to cure them at one time.

It is a plant of old walls and rocky places. I look for it every year in a rather unusual site - on the river bank, adjacent to Chorlton Ees, about 1/4 of a mile east of where Chorlton Brook flows into the Mersey. Here there is a small weir in the river and the banks on either side are strengthened with concrete 'rafts'. Each raft is like a small rock garden with Mosses, Stonecrops, Geraniums, Vetches and other plants including the Whitlowgrass.

The plant consists of a rosette of leaves with the flower bearing stalks emerging from the centre of the rosette. Plants with rosettes like this are often adapted for dry conditions (it is a common form adopted by Alpine species). No doubt the Whitlowgrass has to endure drought conditions but, ironically, it is also periodically inundated when the river is high! The flowers have four, deeply notched, petals which are not easy to see in the photograph above (they appear to need bright sunlight in order to fully open - and there hasn't been a lot of that lately - at least when I've been trying to take photographs of E. verna!).
Dave Bishop, March 2009