A Scented Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Garden privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)

Dear Readers, the woodier parts of the cemetery are heavy with the scent of privet flowers today – the perfume has a heady, creamy quality that I associate with lilies. I look at the small trees that the privet has become, and wonder if, years ago, they formed nicely trimmed hedges. I do love a feral plant, though, and so do the hover flies and honey bees who are all over the blossom.

In fact, it’s been a good day for pollinators in many ways. The reflexed stonecrop is having a very good year.

And now that the dandelions have gone over, the other members of the ‘yellow compositae’ are making a break for it. I suspect that this is catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) but you need a PhD in plant identification to get these guys right.

And howsabout all this ribwort plantain? I have been practicing getting down to ground level to photograph some of these plants in what I like to think of as ‘fox-eye view’.

Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

In the woodland grave area, the plants are busting out all over. There’s knapweed..

and St John’s Wort…

…and my very favourite umbelllifer, wild carrot. These plants all have that characteristic single red flower in the middle, but how I love the misty delicacy of them, and the way that they unfurl from their initial birdsnest buds.

Then it’s a quick visit to the horse chestnut tree to see how it’s doing. The leaf miners seem to be advancing and although the conkers are getting better, I don’t like the look of that canker on the stems. Maybe it’s nothing though. Everything is certainly getting bigger!

And now we have a puzzle – what on earth is this plant? The knowledgeable crew over at the Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland Facebook page have identified this as a pepperwort, but the jury is still out as to what species. At least it’s a complicated ID as opposed to something obvious.

A pepperwort, but which one?

The yarrow is also in full flower now, and this is another popular plant for hoverflies. What underrated pollinators these insects are! They transfer pollen in all innocence from one plant to another on their little sticky feet, and they especially like the open, easy flowers of daisies.

I also have a great fondness of spear thistle, which is a bumblebee favourite.

In the woodiest part of the cemetery I saw the buzzard fly across the path. I am convinced that they are nesting and roosting here, but they are very secretive, and who can blame them? These birds have been becoming commoner, with an increase in breeding birds of over 400% between 1970 and 2010 – when my book ‘The Birds of London’ by Andrew Self was published in 2014 there were thought to be between 66 and 93 pairs in the London area. I wish that the cemetery was more available to visitors during the week, so that I could do a bit more observing, but at the moment it’s just the weekend. Ah well.

There has been a sudden outburst of self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) in the cemetery too.

And look at this lone daylily (Hemerocallis) flowering amongst a tangle of brambles and privet. I guess that there was a well-tended grave here that has disappeared under the wild flowers.

The leaves of the herb Robert are starting to turn red.

And the Scotsman seems to have had a rather large bird sitting just above him. Let’s hope that it was something splendid like the buzzard.

4 thoughts on “A Scented Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Liz Norbury

    I’ve also been experimenting with some ground level photography, attempting to capture a silver-studded blue butterfly’s view of the carpets of bird’s foot trefoil in the sand dunes.

  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    Did anyone else, as a child, make a game with plantains? You loop one stalk around another, slide it fast towards the head and see how far the head will fly off. Must see if it still works.


Leave a Reply