Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More winter scent

After writing about Sarcococca and it's penetrating winter scent yesterday I was reminded of another distinctive winter scent this morning.

As always, I had my dogs out for their early morning walk.  It's not that long, about 3 miles / 5 km for me, 2 - 3 times that for them.  Virtually all of it through local grass and woodland.  It was the sort of winter morning that we always wish for - but rarely get in our damp winters.  Dry, the sun just beginning to raise the temperature to melt off the tiny traces of overnight frost, hovering mist over the grassy areas with deeper clouds in the distant view of the Tamar, cool and fresh.  I like to vary the route and this morning I took one I hadn't gone down for a while.

The walk was nearly over when the scent hit me.  Winter heliotrope, Petasites fragrans.  Absolutely distinctive though difficult to describe.  A combination of almonds and vanilla is the best I can manage although if you've ever smelt any of the older, more heavily scented varieties of the heliotrope sold as summer bedding or container plants, Heliotropium arborescens, you'll know exactly what I mean.  I was at least 20 yards / metres from the plants, a good indication of the penetrating power of the fragrance.  All this from a head of whispy little flowers above carpets of quite attractive rounded leaves.

Petasites fragrans - Winter Heliotrope
This is not one for the garden.  Introduced to the UK from it's North African homeland it's an extremely persistent weed, regenerating from the tiniest bit of root and spreading to form large patches within a short time.  It's widespread in woods and hedgerows down here despite all the plants in the UK being male - an indication of it's spreading power and persistence.  The patch in my local wood probably came in with some rubble that was dumped where a building site once adjoined the area.

For all it's invasive habits I still welcome that sharp, distinctive winter scent.  Long may it refresh my winter walks - although if it gets too close I'm moving!

1 comment:

  1. Dear John, Such a pity the beautiful scent is emitted by a nuisance plant. P. x