Thankfully in life, nothing is black and white. We have a myriad of colours and shades in between. With this warm weather still with us, the wildflowers on the Estate are still showing well. However, every so often, nature pulls a fast one and manages to open my eyes wider to its magic. This time around nature ‘did its thing’ on the Round Headed Rampion Phyteuma orbiculare. A superbly delicate purple blue flower, typically associated with chalk grassland here on the South Downs (importance of downland was highlighted in https://rathfinnyestate.com/estate-news/?p=997) The intricate flower is notably referred to as the Pride of Sussex. Quite right too!
A profusion of deep colour means the Round Headed Rampion stands out from the crowd during late July and August on our springy chalk grassland. The actual flower shape is unique and it’s difficult to distinguish all its parts. This is due to the fact that on closer inspection the ‘head’ of the flower is actually made up of a whole suite of very small individual flowers. This chalk loving plant (calcicole) really surprised me this week. What do you think?
Its white!! I’ll think you’ll agree it is a fine specimen (apologies for iphone photo but the flower did not survive long). The lack of colour pigment (chlorophyll) in this case is due to a condition referred to as chlorosis – of which there can be many different causes. It is also a potential issue for our vines. Due to the high pH of chalk soils, the visible signs of leaves looking pale or even losing all colour is something we do not wish to see in the vineyard. Without chlorophyll a plant cannot grow and mature, the growth of a plant is known as photosynthesis. Now for the scientific bit – chlorophyll, which is magnesium based, is linked to a protein and is a very clever little molecule. It’s able to absorb sunlight and produce (synthesise) carbohydrate = growth of plants = grapes = Sussex Sparkling! Simple.
Now is the ideal time to see our vines in all their chlorophyll glory – the only way to do this at the moment is to join one of our Estate Tours, we still have some spaces at the end of September and October. All the details can be seen on our website, or if you’re local, you can take the more pleasant alternative and book a Tour from our cellar door the Gun Room in Alfriston.
Before I sign off this blog, there is one national and one international announcement to make for this coming weekend. Of national significance is the fact that the Tour of Britain will be sweeping through Seaford this Saturday – so my lycra will be dusted off and the flags will be unfurled. Of international importance is the huge celebratory event that after months of medical interventions, incredible support and care from the boss (my wife) and her assistant (our 6yr old daughter) our triplets will be donning dribble bibs to celebrate their first birthday. A few bottles of Sussex Sparkling will be opened. Cheers to my tribe!
(* at time of press)