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Read in: EnglishCymraeg
Spring is an exciting time to be on our nature reserves.
This is the season when the meadows really burst into life, with lush growth and seasonal flowers.
Cae Blaen-dyffryn is our south Wales nature reserve and can be found close to the town of Lampeter, in Carmarthenshire. It’s best known for its population of Greater and Lesser Butterfly Orchids (Platanthera chlorantha & P. bifolia) which flower in the high summer.
However, a visit in spring is always rewarding. Luxuriant fresh growth in the grassland is fed by a warm sun and abundant rain. Cuckoos call from distant hills. Within the reserve, Meadow Pipits drop from the sky above you with their cascading song, and Stonechats call assertively from the scrub.
You can also find the earliest-flowering plant species breaking through in Cae Blaen-dyffryn in May and June. If you look carefully, you can also find signs of other beauties still in store, like the feathery leaves of Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum (Carmarthenshire’s ‘County Flower’) poking through.
In May, the most abundant include pink Lousewort (pictured) Pedicularis sylvatica, purple Bugle Ajuga reptans, and yellow Tormentil Potentilla erecta, so the reserve is already a rainbow of colour.
Scattered bushes of Broom (pictured) Cytisus scoparius and Gorse Ulex europaeus are also in their fullest seasonal yellow coat of flowers. As soon as the sun hits them, they are suddenly alive with pollinators.
The speckled leaves of Dactylorhiza Orchids(pictured) can also be found peeking out between the abundant patches of Knapweed Centaurea nigra and Cat’s-ear Hypochaeris radicata.
Our North Wales nature reserve, sitting on a hillside above Clynnog-Fawr on the Llyn peninsula, is equally known for its population of Greater Butterfly Orchids which number in their thousands at the site.
The meadows under the mountain pass face north east, making them a morning spot to visit if you wish to enjoy them in the sunshine at this time of year. They are as equally beautiful in the North Wales rain, however.
The cloddiau (earth and stone bank walls) between the fields are an equal show to the meadows, with their hedgerow tops of Rowan, Damson, Hawthorn and Blackthorn. If you look below the trees the Common Dog Violets Viola riviniana hide amongst the tree roots and the boulders.
The orchids are already visible in the meadow and the Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor is just starting to flower.
A few Celandines (pictured) Ficaria verna are just holding on but the yellow flowers and white clocks of the Dandelions Taraxacum spp contrast beautifully with the blue of the Bluebells Hyacinthus non-scripta, which are equally set off by the feathery leaves of Pignut Conopodium majus.
Spring Sedge Carex caryophyllea abounds at the site but if you look between it and the more prominent species very carefully you will see the leaves and tiny starry green flowers of the Intermediate Lady’s-mantle (pictured) Alchemilla xanthochlora and Smooth Lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glabra. If you visit in the morning on a dew laden spring day, you will catch these plants living up to their other name of ‘Dew Cup’.
There is something wonderful about the sense of promise yielded by flower-rich grasslands at this time of year. And a feeling you can’t wait to come back to see what you might find next.
Caeau Tan y Bwlch is managed on behalf of Plantlife by North Wales Wildlife Trust.
For more details on visiting our Welsh reserves in spring and throughout the year, visit our reserves page here Welsh Nature Reserves – Plantlife
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