Be prepared is the Perthshire motto just now as we equip ourselves with waterproofs, wellingtons and umbrellas to protect from the worst of April's daily deluges. Gone is the suncream, the smell of barbeques in the air, the blue skies and sunshine from March...........sigh. Though if you're brave enough to venture out on a walk you might see some rays of wildflower sunshine along the roadside verges. Now I don't mean the dandelions or coltsfoot nor the fields of oil seed rape which are all in bloom just now but the Giant Leopards Bane - Doronicum pardalianches.
|photo taken in between the showers last Saturday|
|Growing on a steep roadside verge|
Doronicum pardalianches is a fully hardy perennial and a member of the Asteraceace family. It grows around 2-3 feet tall and has between 2-5 bright yellow single daisy flowers per stem with heart shaped toothed leaves.
The plant was first introduced to the UK in medieval times as a medicinal herb but it has now naturalised across most of Eastern Scotland. It was thought that it gave men the power to destroy wild beasts hence it's common name Leopards Bane as it was once used as a poison and added to raw meat for bait. (from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine)
You can find it growing on the edges of woodlands and on grassy roadside verges and not far from home it turns one steep roadside bank into bright yellow from late Spring into early May. Here it drifts undisturbed in dappled shade as it is detested by the rabbits and deer that graze in the surrounding fields.
|Giant Leopards Bane - Doronicum pardalianches.|
A Very Bee Friendly Plant.
As someone who wants to encourage others to grow more wildflowers to give our pollinators a helping hand this would be a great choice for a woodland garden, cottage garden or if you're troubled by rabbits and deer. It's shallow rooted and spreads by rhizomes though it could become invasive if the conditions are just right - but nothing that a spade can't sort out.
Just as the daffodils finish flowering the Giant Leopards Bane will continue the yellow colour theme in the garden into May. If planted amongst the daffodils it can also mask their dying leaves and would look good grown with our native blue forget me nots - Myosotis.
|native blue forget me nots - Myosotis - a good companion plant|
A More Tamed Plant?
If you want a more 'tamed' Dorinicum there are many cultivated varieties sold in nurseries and garden centres like 'Little Leo' and 'Miss Mason'. You'll need to be quick though as these plants are usually only for sale in the spring and early summer as by the middle of summer the plant has gone dormant and the foliage has completely disappeared until next spring.
Have you spotted this wildflower in your area?