tempus fugit

By ceridwen

King of the bog

I was excited when I found this unusual plant last year in a raised bog a few miles from home. Raised bogs are basins of wet ground left over from glacial lakes, huge spongey mattresses of moss and peat with all sorts  of specialized forms of life. This is one, even older than the last glaciation it dates, unchanged, from the early Jurassic age over 200 million years ago when it evolved in the southern continent of Gondwana.

This is royal fern, Osmunda regalis. I didn't recognise it as a fern but its uncurling fertile fronds resemble brocade, with their clusters of sporangia like tiny green grapes (extra). 

The name Osmunda is said to be an alternative name for Thor, the Saxon god of thunder, war and oak trees and all things powerful. His Slavic equivalent is Perun. According to Wikipedia, the spore-bearing fronds of royal fern are known as Perun's flowers, and as such posses magical powers, giving their holders the ability to defeat demons, fulfill wishes, unlock secrets, and understand the language of trees. However, collecting the sporangia (traditionally on midsummer night) is a difficult and frightening process so anyone wanting to pick Perun's flowers must stand within a circle drawn around the plant and withstand the taunting or threats of demons.*

I didn't collect any 'flowers', only photographs of them, and I heard no demons although the bog did try to claim me as I sank knee deep into the mire. Perhaps it was a little early in the day for the worst manifestations.

*So says Wikipedia but I can find no source or supportive evidence. 

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