Three British plants, however, can boast of a special connection with the county of Notts, namely, the Nottingham catchfly, and the two species of Nottingham meadow crocuses.

The Nottingham catchfly (Silene nutans) obtained its name from the fact of its growing upon the walls of Nottingham Castle. The original discoverer of this interesting plant was Thomas Willisel, as recorded by the illustrious naturalist Ray in his ‘Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum,’ who himself observed the plant when he accompanied his friend and patron, Sir Francis Willoughby, to Wollaton, in 1670, for the purpose of investigating the natural history of the neighbourhood. It was then called the ‘Wild white catchfly,’ and its habitat is recorded thus : ‘On the walls of Nottingham Castle, and thereabout; shown us first by Thos. Willisel.’ Deering mentions it by the same name, and also adds that it grows on the rock at Sneinton Hermitage in great plenty. Withering, in 1770, appears to have first given it the name by which it has been known ever since, using the term ‘Nottingham catchfly’ to distinguish it from the ‘Dover catchfly,’ then supposed different, but now known to be identical. Ordoyno appears to be the first local writer who uses the name. It is interesting to note that the figure in Sowerby’s , English Botany’ (plate 465) was furnished by this gentleman, for we read : ‘We received this from Nottingham Castle by favour of Mr. Ordoyno.’ Howitt records a point of interest respecting it, namely, that ‘Since the burning of Nottingham Castle this plant has extended itself over nearly the entire ruins.’ It is still abundant there, and as this historic pile has passed into the custody of the town, may it long continue to flourish on the spot which it has graced for a period of over two centuries.

A point of interest which may be mentioned in passing, and which may account for the plant being less familiar to local residents than would otherwise be the case, is that the flowers expand only during the evening, when alone they exhale a powerful perfume, something like meadowsweet and blackthorn. In the day-time the petals are curled up, and their dull underside alone exposed to view, which conveys the impression that the flower is already withered and past; but as evening comes on the petals uncurl and expand themselves, and the white colour of the upper side is exposed to view, which makes them quite visible, even in the twilight. The odour which is then exhaled attracts numerous insects which search for nectar in the evening or by night. Its name of ‘catchfly’ is due to the fact that the upper part of the stem and calyx exude a viscid fluid which serves to imprison small insects—a defensive secretion against unprofitable or unwelcome visitors. The only insects welcome are dusk or night-loving insects, and for these alone the flowers unfurl their petals and exhale their perfume.

The two Nottingham meadow crocuses, as already mentioned, were added to the British flora by Deering, and therefore claim special attention. We may trace their histories separately.

The vernal crocus (Crocus vernus us) is thus alluded to : ‘Crocus Vernus Coeruleus, the blue spring crocus, flowers in March. No mention is made of this in the Synopsis [i.e., of Ray]. I found it, in company with Mr. Tutin, a little above Fox Lane, in the Clay Field. It grows also in the Nottingham meadows, in several places, on the right hand side of the road going to the King’s Meadows. It seemed to me at first that probably some roots might have been carried to that place among the dung from some garden, but when I considered they were very numerous, and spread very much, and the above-mentioned friend assured me he had for nearly ten years observed them there, I began to doubt whether they might not be of spontaneous growth’ (Deering, , Cat.,’ p. 60). ‘Il Rosajo,’ in the ‘Botanical Calendar’ for Notts above cited, remarks : ‘This beautiful flower, the pride of the Nottinghamshire flora, to which one of our poets alludes in speaking of

"Trent’s green vale, where spring-flowers bloom,"

may be found of every shade of colour between pure white and deep purple, and with many varieties of stripings, in its wild state, though purple more or less deep is by far the most common.’ He also observes that about the end of February and beginning of March , it clothes several acres of the Nottingham meadows with a purple flowery carpet, the hue of which may be distinguished for a considerable distance.’ At the present day the area has been so much restricted by building operations that the younger generation will find it hard to realize their former abundance ; but a writer in the Gardener’s Chronicle for 1872 very well alludes to it when he speaks of hundreds of people of every age and condition gathering the flowers for the ornamentation of their homes, and of every kind of receptacle being called into use to contain the quantities that were gathered—a condition of things that I can very vividly remember.

The autumnal crocus (Crocus nudiflorus) is mentioned by Deering as follows : ‘Colchicum commune. Synopsis [i.e., of Ray], 373. Meadow saffron. Flowers in November, whence gardeners call them Naked Boys. In Nottingham meadows and about Trent Bridge. . .‘ (Deering, , Cat.,’ p. 61). Deering fell into error in identifying his plant as the colchicum, as was pointed out by the Rev. T. Becher, who supplied Sir James Smith with the following information : ‘Crocus nudiflorus grows in the greatest profusion between Nottingham Castle and the river Trent, in meadows whose soil is naturally sandy. . . . There this plant enamels some acres of ground every autumn, and has been mistaken by strangers for a piece of water. From its place of growth, time of flowering, and the information of old inhabitants of the neighbourhood, there can be no doubt of its being what Deering mistook for the colchicum, which does not grow thereabouts. It flowers in perfection early in October, and fades before the end of the month’ (Sowerby’s , English Botany,’ plate 373).

The abundance of these two crocuses is very interesting, for they are natives of Southern Europe, and were certainly introduced in some way to the Nottingham meadows, as Deering shrewdly suspected. Notwithstanding this, they possess a very great local interest, and although their area has been enormously reduced by building operations, it is much to be hoped that they will not be completely banished from the district, as there are certainly places where they could be properly preserved.

It would occupy far too great a space to enumerate the rare or local plants of the district. Those who desire further information will search the pages of the works already mentioned. Heaths and bogs are among the more promising localities, as owing to the changes which have taken place these have been considerably reduced in area, and in a few cases their peculiar plants banished, as, for example, the royal or flowering fern, which formerly grew wild in several localities. But sufficient still remain to interest all those who find a charm in this fascinating branch of natural history.