Sunday, 28 April 2013

Hunting for Restharrow

As much as I adore illustrating the natural world indoors, every now and again you need to get out there in the field and see what's going on.  Lately, I have been working on several commissions and teaching preparation, so have been quite confined to the studio.

I bet you are all a bit bemused by the title of this blog post ?  Well, I was on the hunt for Restharrow, a plant that can be found growing on chalk grasslands and also near the coast.  I am involved with a project with the Irish Society of Botanical Artists , and this is the plant that I am illustrating.

© Sarah Morrish
This is Restharrow growing on the South Devon coast.
The only problem was that at this time of year the plant is not in flower and it is low-growing, so it is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack !  Nevertheless, we started off very eager and determined when we got to Old Winchester Hill to start exploring for it.

Old Winchester Hill is a favourite site of mine, which is a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Botanically, it is a great place for seeing a wide range of classic chalk grassland plant species and also those that are less common.  In 2006, I spent several days here helping a friend with survey work to look for Round-headed Rampion, which is one of the rarer species.

For more information on Old Winchester Hill go to:

© Sarah Morrish
Looking over towards the ramparts of the Iron Age Hill Fort and Bronze Age burial mounds.

We had no luck finding Restharrow, but there were signs of other chalk grassland species starting to show.

© Sarah Morrish
Leaves of Orchids starting to show.

© Sarah Morrish
The bowing flowers of an emerging cowslip.
© Sarah Morrish
A Violet species found on the banks of the hillfort.
As well as chalk grassland there are also areas of woodland, one area containing some ancient Yew trees. 

© Sarah Morrish
 There were many signs of Spring finally getting here.  The Blackthorn flowers becoming evident.  These come before the leaves and they must not be confused with Hawthorn, which blooms a bit later.  With Hawthorn, the leaves come before the flowers. 

© Sarah Morrish
The beautiful and delicate Blackthorn flower.
 One thing that I thought was stunning, was the buds of the Ash tree bursting open.  The black buds always look so tightly closed and it is amazing what comes out of them when they start to open.

© Sarah Morrish

Well, the hunt for Restharrow continues and I will resume the challenge as we hopefully move closer to the summer months.  Perhaps I will explore some coastal sites in my quest ?


  1. Good to hear what Irish plant you have. We get Restharrow in the dune slacks near me. Lovely photos here.
    Good luck with your quest!! Xx

  2. Hi Sarah, you may not have found some restharrow, but it sounds like a good day out all the same... Perhaps you'll have better luck in summer when it's blooming! (here's a lovely irish site about wildflowers, btw:,%20Common) There's a nice note there about the origin of the name of Restharrow.
    Lovely photos! I have a yew to do for the ISBA project (thanks to Claire :-)) so it was nice to see that gorgeous Yew trunk in your photos. And the ash flowers emerging from those tight black buds are amazing aren't they? we have those in our local park too ( hope to meet you next Friday!

  3. Thank you Claire and Erica. It was a good morning out and great to get out there and open my eyes again ! I loved the Wildflowers of Ireland site - so useful :)
    I've also just managed to order some Restharrow plants, which will be great for back-up.
    I'll take some photos on Friday Claire and I'll look forward to meeting you on Friday Erica !


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