The landscape of England has transformed in the last couple of weeks to a pastiche of various shades of yellow. The daffodils are almost over now, just a little splash of colour left.
Springing up in their place in the hedgerows, the dandelions have put in an appearance. In the woods the primroses are out in huge numbers.
On the downland, heathland and the moors, the gorse is still blooming. Very colourful and with a beautiful aroma (reminiscent of coconut) gorse adds a golden lustre through the late winter and early spring. Don’t grab a gorse bush, though, the gorse prickles are one of the sharpest and most painful you will find – which explains why it hasn’t been eaten by hungry cattle or deer during the winter!
By far the most dramatic addition to the landscape at the moment are the bright yellow fields of Oilseed Rape which dominate the arable farming areas.
Many people see it as a relatively new crop, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the first century, the Romans introduced it as a feed crop for animals. It has no pollen, as such, but gives off an oily fragrant substance. It is a member of the cabbage family. It is grown for its oil (known in North America as Canola Oil), which is light, healthy and excellent to cook with. Rapeseed was reintroduced to England in the seventeenth century, when the lowland fields were drained. The Dutch drainage engineers needed a light oil to lubricate their pumps. The fields will be blooming for another few weeks, but the crop will be in the fields for months whilst the pods of seeds fill with oil.
The fifth (not fiftieth – OK, I exaggerated) shade of yellow appearing in large numbers on unspoilt grasslands is provided by the majestic Cowslip. The cowslip is a species in decline as it does not respond well to chemicals.
If yellow is not your colour, relax, change is on the way. The first of the bluebells are with us and will soon be dominating our Beech woodlands.