Blackthorn and other trees of the genus Prunus are usually the first trees to come into flower. Blackthorn blossom is so delicate and pretty, dusting the bushes and hedgerows with a light frosting that looks like sugar, or light snow. As well as looking beautiful, it is really important as a source of nectar for pollinating insects that are becoming more active at this time of year. It also promises a harvest of sloes later on in the year – wonderful for including in hedgerow jams and jellies and for making sloe gin and vodka.
It isn’t just blackthorn that we find in bloom at the woods. Our orchard also has blossom on the plum trees. Most pleasing of all is the blossom on our cherry trees. We planted some wild cherry in Betty’s Wood in 2011. Not many trees were included, just a few, to provide birds with wild cherries as food in autumn. These trees have now grown large enough that they have blossomed for the first time. This is really exciting for us – our little trees are now producing nectar for the bees and other pollinators, and later in the year will provide fruit for birds, small mammals and insects. It is a sign that the young woodland is developing into a resource for wildlife.
Finally, not strictly blossom but lovely to see nonetheless, last year we had just one cowslip in Betty’s Wood. I have now given up counting – there are at least 50 of them growing on the mounds by our ponds and in the grass nearby. They are visited by the bees, as are the ribwort plantain which are just coming into flower, and provide another good source of nectar and pollen for the hive.