Nature on our doorsteps: Flowering in winter
Not too many plants flower in winter. Day-light levels and temperatures are usually too low, and wind conditions are often too harsh to allow delicate buds and flowers to open and survive.
One plant which is robust enough to flower is the Winter Heliotrope.
This grows along shady roadsides, hedgerows and riverbanks. It is not a native Irish species, and its extensive carpets of rounded leaves can dominate some areas to the exclusion of other plants.
Winter Heliotrope can start flowering in November and will continue well into February.
Small pink and white flowers grow in little tufts towards the top of the stem.
While the small individual flowers are perhaps not very spectacular, their intense vanilla-scented fragrance certainly is.
This can hang in the air on still winter days, attracting the attention of any pollinating insects that may be venturing out in mild weather.
A related native plant is Butterbur. While Butterbur’s flowers have no fragrance at all, this plant’s spectacular feature is its leaves.
These can grow very tall and can reach up to 1m wide. Butterbur’s flowers are not fragrant, and they come into bloom later between April and May.
Other well-known plants, like Dandelion, can also take advantage of a mild spell in winter to send out a flower or two.
By Rosaleen Dwyer.