Carrots, cows and butterflies

Clare Sweeney

It’s been gloriously hot this June and while certain flowers and some people too, are wilting heat, there are others that are positively basking in the sunshine.

You can’t miss them, I’m not talking about any of those pale English bodies on show in our parks, I’m on about the profusion of perfect pollinator plants in bloom this month.

Once you begin to notice them, you’ll see plenty of tall stems of white feathery flowers wherever there’s some grassy habitat and even along roadside verges, but particularly in meadows and possibly in your garden.

These lacy, airy flower heads, made up of a mass of tiny, five-petalled flowers all rising up from a single point make a great landing pad for insects. The stalks are all pretty much the same length so butterflies, moths, hoverflies, wasps and flies can all land on the umbrella-like foliage and lap up some nectar with no trouble at all.

I was lucky enough to snap a meadow brown butterfly doing just that when I snatched a quick stroll outdoors at lunchtime.

Did you know all these umbellieries are members of the carrot family? Apparently the most recognisable is cow parsley or Anthriscus sylvestris, which lines our roadsides with a sea of white from April to June.

I find it a bit tricky to distinguish the different kind of carrot family umbillifieraes from each other, I think the butterfly I spotted might have been on a hogweed but I’m not sure.

Like lots of plant families, the umbelliers or Apiaceae family might be related to our common carrot, but some of their family members are definitely not good to eat for you and me. And hogweed has a scary big brother called giant hogweed that has sap that makes skin very sensitive to the sun. It’s hard to miss though as it’s enormous.

All the same I’m happy to leave the flowers for the bugs and butterflies. They are perfectly suitable for the meadow brown, one of our common little butterflies on the wing from June to September, watch out for this pretty little butterfly with a black eye spot and a band or light orange patch on the fore-wings.