What have you seen in your verges recently? Many thanks to Mon, who tells a bit more about the violets you can spot in many of the verges in Seaford right now!
This year the violets came out early – I spotted some in a twitten on 13 February – but they are in their prime now – mid March. In some places there are so many that you can smell their perfume – hence their name sweet violet. There are local names for this much-loved flower. For example in Somerset they are called “modest maiden” – presumably because their stalk bends and their ‘faces’ are tipped downwards.
In Seaford they can be found on verges and even growing through cracks in the pavement but there are large swathes of them in sheltered places along footpaths to Seaford Head.
Although we must not pick them nowadays, there are records of them being gathered to give on Mothering Sunday in Sussex and Kent in the 1920s and 30s.
In the summer, violets produce buds which never open and do not contain petals – but they contain everything needed for self- fertilisation to produce seeds. (This is called cleistogamy).
Like many wild plants, they were used as herbal remedies. An extract made from violet leaves was sometimes, in the past, used to treat headaches (they are said to contain a substance related to aspirin), and there are some claims that a paste made from them could help reduce cancerous growths.
In the Toulouse area of France violets have been cultivated for centuries and are made into crystallised violets and a sweet liqueur which is added to champagne.
Many thanks Mon, that is really fascinating!
They are beautiful little flowers too, do look out for them, and don’t forget to have a sniff!
If you would like to know exactly which violets you are looking at, this ID chart can be helpful https://www.discoverthewild.co.uk/post/viola-id-and-sweet-violet-liqueur
On the Verge is a project to connect people and green spaces to create wildlife corridors throughout Seaford. Do get involved if you can.
We would love to hear more about what you have seen in your verges, please do get in touch with your stories and photographs!