Country diary: the chalk-loving charmer that plays with light

Country diary: the chalk-loving charmer that plays with light

Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex: The dropwort is a rarity, but it outshines its neighbours, wherever it rises

There was this flower, growing in grasses flowing with the wind that lifted hang-gliders above the high downs, carried butterflies, hummed through the extendable lead connecting a dog to the person he was exercising, a wind that sang with the skylarks, higher and higher. This flower of chalk downland grew from the roll of hills at Devil’s Dyke, above the deep valley cleft the devil made to let the sea flood the people of the Weald.

I too come from a county where the Devil’s engineering had a similar intention and where there is also a grassy hill where this flower blooms. Dropwort, Fillipendula vulgaris (not to be confused with the poisonous hemlock water dropwort), belongs to the same group as meadowsweet in the rose family. It is only 10cm-15cm tall with narrow pinnately lobed leaves and red stems holding white flowers tinged red on the outsides.

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