Monday, 25 May 2020

'SILKEN GAUDINESS'

Broom - scattered bushes on field banks and patches of uncultivated land (waste land is a value judgment not a habitat).  For the last couple of weeks I've been delighting in its dazzlingly bright yellow flowers.

Broom (banadl in Welsh) is one of the three flower ingredients used to make the woman, Blodeuedd, in the Mabinogi.  In Matthew Francis's 2017 version:

     Meadowsweet for sweetness, with its smell of stale candy,
     shrivelled cream flowers they strew between bedsheets;
     broomflowers for silken gaudiness;
     oak catkins for their gentle
     tickling of the wind.

Just a few stanzas later he writes, 'A fire yellow as broom was lit in the hall'.

At the bottom of the hill next to a field gate the long stems of a particularly spectacular broom bush are weighed down with flowers, the stems arcing over like a golden fountain. There's a vanilla-ish scent in the air and the air is loud with bees.

Browsing the internet I discover that broom flowers are papilionaeous - what a wonderful word!  The butterfly connection was not obvious to me, but then I read that the flowers have a large upper petal, two lateral petals (wings) and two intermediate fused petals forming a keel (some mixed metaphors going on in the botanical world here!).  Inside is like a jack-in-the-box: when a bee lands its weight acts as a trigger and the bee is showered with pollen.  The next day, after a couple of failed attempts, I managed to imitate a bee with my finger and see the quick flick opening of the flower.

The lane turns a corner at the farm and from here I can see Garn Boduan. On the other side is the town of Nefyn.  It was here that one of the Plantaganet kings, Edward I, held a lavish royal tournament in 1284 to demonstrate his authority over Wales.  The site of the tournament is called Cae Iorwerth (Edward's Field).  What has this to do with broom you might ask?  The Plantaganets took their name from the old name for broom, Planta Genista.

Broom

A fountain of gold coins

listen - it's humming
with trigger-happy bees

working the flowers
like slot-machines.

© Mary Robinson 2020

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