Bees and Trees seen in Devon

On a sunny day last week, we walked around Salcombe and the nearby coast path. We enjoyed wonderful views over the sea and the coast in this part of Devon. This is not a catalogue of the walk; rather I wanted to highlight two interesting encounters.

red tailed feb 2014
red-tailed bumblebee

Between Salcombe’s North and South Sands beaches we came across a grassy bank in full sunshine. There were many purple flowers, violets and periwinkle, with quite a few bees enjoying the forage and sunshine. One of them was, I think, a beautiful red-tailed bumblebee. (There is a good discussion of identification issues here).

Magnolias at Overbecks
Magnolia campbelli at Overbeck’s

Later on as we descended the coast path from Bolt Tail towards Salcombe, we walked along the boundary wall of the National Trust property of Overbeck’s. This has a beautiful garden built alongside and above the Salcombe estuary. Conditions here are very mild and they can grow a number of tender plants including bananas. Overbeck’s is renowned for its magnolias and over the wall we were able to glimpse the Magnolia campbelli covered in their huge bright pink flowers, looking all the more surprising in the absence of other colour. Originally from the Himalayas, M. campbelli is known for flowering early and for the size of its flowers (at least 20cm across). One of the Overbeck’s Magnolia campbelli was planted in 1901 and a second daughter tree was grown from seed in the 1950s. The early flowering makes the tree vulnerable to frost and in some years the flowers are damaged by a sudden drop in temperature.

The picture doesn’t do justice to the flowers but further down the road we came across two more Magnolia campbelli growing in a private garden.

magnolia at South Sands
Magnolia campbelli in private garden

Although these were not as advanced as those at Overbeck’s itself, they show rather well the mature olive green flower buds and the bright pink flowers. I saw these two trees for the first time three years ago just after they had been frosted. Some petals were still hanging on the tree and some lay on the ground. These thick pink petals the size of pocket handkerchiefs reminded me of the flags used at music festivals such as WOMAD.

WOMAD Festival Reading 2003

With the exception of the WOMAD picture, which comes from Wikipedia, the pictures were taken by Hazel Strange on February 26th 2014.

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