Early Spring White Flowers

Walking the coastal path at the moment there are some tiny white flowers to be seen.  A magnifying glass is a great help, as the smallest of these, whitlow grass or nailwort, which seeds itself in gravelly areas is hard to see in detail with the naked eye.  It is low-growing and is to be found along the higher ridge path, which in places is quite dry and stoney. The flowers are on fine branched stems that are no more than an inch from the ground, mostly less;, and the leaves form a small rosette flat to the soil.  It shares its name with a ‘whitlow’ which is a sore or blister caused by an infection of the fingers.  Helen says it is a paronychia.  Anyway, in herbal medicine whitlow grass was used in its treatment, and early settlers to North America apparently took it with them for this purpose.

It is not to be confused with scurvy grass which is more clearly seen - and is in profusion - on the lower coastal path on the slopes towards the sea, especially on the western end of the path below the lighthouse, once one has climbed the track to this point.  This has fleshy leaves and white and pinky flowers and is easier to make out.  It is said to contain vitamin C and so could be used for the treatment of scurvy.

On the way back a third tiny white flower is seen in several places beside the path from the gate at the bottom of the dip leading up towards Southern Farm, and in many other locations too.  This is one of the banes of the gardener’s existence: hairy bitter cress, that I can look at in the countryside with happiness, but when it spreads across bare soil in the garden, and seeds itself all over the place, I see it with less than joy. 

John Mann