Coral Root in Rectory Wood, Amersham

Nominated by: Marian Borrows

Images by Peter Borrows

I would like to nominate a rare native plant, the Coral Root:

Cardamine bulbifera (L.) Crantz. Dentaria Bulbifera L: root white and scaly; stem 1-2 feet with purple bulbils in axils; petals pink or lilac.  In calcareous woods, very local.  Flowering: April-May. (The Concise British Flora in Colour, Keble Martin W, 1972, London: Sphere Books Ltd.)

I would also like to nominate its environment because as with plants, people, places county-wide, it’s the historical context that makes them so special in Buckinghamshire.

In order to seek out this elusive plant, from the Metroland station at Amersham turn left and dip under the railway bridge, then immediately turn right on a path between houses and the railway embankment. After less than 100 m, head half left up the hill into Rectory Wood (that’s what locals call it – it’s usually called Parsonage Wood on maps).  Find the path heading south parallel to the road but 20 or 30 metres inside the wood through the shady beech trees.  In the spring a froth of wind flowers (wood anemones) and celandines grow alongside the path, followed by bluebells and then, if you look carefully, the tall, delicate, feathery spires of the coral root.

At the southern end of the wood, pause – even rest on the welcome seat – and gaze on the town below: a puzzle, Escher-like, of cottage roofs interspersed by a church tower, the glass lantern of the old British School, the market hall clock.

A path lures you down between fields, where centuries of labourers have sown and harvested grain to fill the abbey barn for bread and beer, or where once in the Tenter Field woollen cloth was stretched out on hooks to dry. Overhead, the red kites wheel and cry.

Or you could turn left and head towards the memorial commemorating a darker history where people were burnt to death for their beliefs.

The coral root forms a part of the Amersham Town Council crest, described as for the Crest upon a Helm in a Saxon Crown Ora demi lion Gules holding in the dexter claw extended Coral Wort (Cardamina Bulbifera) flowered proper Mantled Gules doubled Argent.

The Coral Root in Rectory Wood, Amersham was nominated by Marian Borrows.