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04 March 2012 | Posted in , Plants , Wildlife

Neil Fletcher takes a regular look at the everyday wildlife at Woods Mill, headquarters of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, and at his home in nearby Henfield.

It's tempting to regard snowdrops as the floral harbingers of spring. A bit obvious though. There are a couple of plants however which pop up each year at Woods Mill which really do it for me in the cheeriness stakes. Thing is, they're not really quite natural. Although neither are certainly native to the UK, they're extremely rare in the wild, and botanists compiling atlases of wild flowers can understandably get themselves into a tizzy worrying about whether a plant is entirely natural and has got there by itself, or has occurred through the hand of man.

In the case of Woods Mill, we know that various parties in decades long past have had their hands in up to the elbow so to speak. So both winter aconite and spring snowflake (not to be confused with either snowdrops or the very common garden plant summer snowflake] are to be found here, certainly planted, along with several other unusual and exciting rarities - most of which probably made the one-and-a-half mile journey down the road from the ex-garden of William Borrer, a famous early 19th century botanist and plant collector who amassed over 6,600 species in his own garden.

So, every February, splashes of gold suddenly decorate the banks of the Mill Leat like spilt butter. They're not exactly wild flowers - you could almost call them garden plants, but these have a real history attached to them. Wild or not, there's nothing more cheery, and I know that spring really is on the way.

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