Column: Waiting impatiently for first sighting of a Scottish butterfly

Walking down a residential street some years ago with a friend, we passed a magnificent magnolia in a front garden – one of those large, unignorable trees with big upturned goblet-like blooms in spring.

My friend said she didn’t like magnolias and if she ever moved into a house with a large magnolia she would face a real dilemma – she would want to chop it down but would be aware she would be disappointing admiring passers-by; fortunately, she has never been forced to make such a decision.

Personally, I think they are rather fabulous plants – nondescript for much of the year, but in late March/April they outshine just about everything else and they are the stars of several gardens near me at the moment.

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I don’t possess one of the big showy magnolias, but I have a very modest magnolia stellata which has pure white starry flowers.

It is, somewhat through accident, pleasingly set off by a back drop of blue grape hyacinths and some pheasant eye daffodils.

Magnolias are actually rather special in that their lineage is so ancient that they pre-date bees, so they are pollinated by beetles.

I have been visiting relatives in Devon this week, where everything is a bit further advanced of course.

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Tulips are out everywhere, and I saw three different species of butterfly on one day – a small white, a speckled wood and a peacock.

The first butterfly sighting of the year is always a special moment, but I am cheating really to mention it here because I have not seen a butterfly yet in Scotland.

Usually the first species I see up here is either one of those that over winter as an adult – such as the peacock - or the orange-tip, which over-winters as a chrysalis and tends to emerge towards the end of April.

So I await with impatience my first sighting of a Scottish butterfly.

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