The joy and sadness of finding a rare flower
In the middle of last week a good friend alerted me to the fact that, in a particular coastal spot, sheltered under a copse of tamarisk trees, there were a number of specimens of a very rare plant, the Pheasant’s eye.
On the following day I rushed to the place, as with such delicate plants there is always the strong likelihood that a bout of adverse weather conditions can very quickly dry up all the specimens of what one is looking for, turning enthusiasm into sheer disappointment.
But this time round, luck was on my side. As I traversed the spot, I started looking for the ubiquitous red flowers of the species. This was not so difficult as the prevailing floral colour at this time of the year is yellow with huge swathes of cape sorrel and crown daisies carpeting the thin soil cover beneath the tamarisks.
And there they were! A number of individual specimens of the very rare Pheasant’s eye, Adonis microcarpa. The flower the Maltese call Ghajn is-serduq or the Cockerell’s eye, there being no pheasants in Malta. A member of the buttercup family and an indigenous Maltese plant, meaning that it is one of Malta’s original floral species and was not introduced to the island by man.
The Pheasant’s eye is an annual species which flowers during the period January to May. It grows in soil-rich pockets of land, mostly near fields although it is sometimes also found on garigue. In Malta, it is classified as rare and is a protected species which cannot be either picked or harmed. Notwithstanding this, this rare but beautiful plant continues to become even scarcer with observed numbers continuing to decline, particularly in the past few decades. So much so, that whenever a few are observed, locations are kept as closely guarded secrets lest they be damaged or destroyed.
There is always a joy when one is privileged to observe something which is rare and precious. But there is also the accompanying sadness that the rarity being “enjoyed” is the result of habitat destruction and loss of bio-diversity. Compounded by the even-sadder fact that for most of our decision makers and planners, such richness is rudely and ignorantly clustered into the pejorative label of “weeds”: the Maltese “haxix hazin” or “bad grass”.
To the insensitive, what I had the privilege to observe last week may be weeds. But to me, this simple flower represents natural beauty as an art form: the perfect dimensions, the delicate beauty, the rich hues and the perfect fit with its surroundings. For, in the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.”
I am pleased to share with you this particular ray of beauty that I managed to freeze in a photo last week and hope that your enthusiasm and appreciation of such beauty is at least as strong as mine.