Thursday 9 December 2010

Unexpected verdancy

Ranunculus fluitans in the River Churn
Although the air temperature is now, at midday on a lovely, sunny day, all of 3oC, which is the most noted foray into positive temperatures for a fortnight, the ground and its covering layer of snow and ice are still frozen hard. Fresh greenery is at a premium, but walking home from the garden I was struck by the exquisite bright green of the shoots of Ranunculus fluitans, catching the sun through the water of the River Churn. Spring-fed, this longest branch of the Upper Thames drainage never freezes.

This water-crowfoot is a characteristic species of swift-flowing alkaline steams and is important for nurturing invertebrates on which another familiar species of such waters, the Brown Trout, feeds. It never produces floating, normal leaves, as other species in the subgenus Batrachium do, just masses of very finely divided leaves on long wiry stems constantly pushed downstream by the current. The white flowers appear above the surface in early summer.

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