Updated: May 10, 2022
At the point where the Mill Burn goes under the road, just downhill from Norham Castle, you can see the unfamiliar – to me, at least – Yellow Anemone (Anemone Ranunculoides). It is similar in shape and size to the Wood Anemone (A. nemorosa), which is found throughout the British Isles in woodland and hedgerows.
I’ve done a fair bit of amateur botanizing in my time but, before I came to Norham, I had never even heard of Yellow Anemone. My Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe (Blamey & Grey-Wilson) describes its distribution as ‘Continental Europe; except the extreme [north]; naturalized locally in Britain.’ And, according to my New Flora of the British Isles (Stace), it is ‘grown in gardens and sometimes persisting as a throwout or escape in shady places.’
The plant has existed in Norham for a long time. The botanical artist, Margaret Rebecca Dickinson (1821-1918), painted a specimen that had been collected from ‘Morris Hall Dene’ in 1872. You can see a copy of her painting by clicking on this link: https://www.jstor.org/site/natural-history-society-of-northumbria/dickinson-collection-of-watercolors, and typing ‘anemone’ into the search box. An excellent book about this ‘talented and prolific’ woman, who lived in Norham for the last fifty years of her life, has been written by our very own (i.e. local resident) Elizabeth Towner. It was published just last year, with excellent illustrations, and copies can be obtained from here: https://www.nhsn.org.uk/product/margaret-rebecca-dickinson-a-botanical-artist-of-the-border-counties.
The flowers at the bottom of the Mill Burn are already past their best this year. (If you don’t get to see them this year, then look out for them in April next year.) This came as a surprise to me, because, just last week – by happy coincidence – I saw numerous plants of Yellow Anemone flourishing along a length of roadside verge west of Denholm (roughly halfway between Hawick and Jedburgh). The road was shadier than the bottom of the Mill Burn, which might explain why the blooms have lasted longer.
The plants west of Denholm were growing at least 200 metres from the nearest house (Teviot Bank), which suggests to me that they were not a direct garden escape. They were, however, growing near the River Teviot, which flows into the River Tweed – so perhaps the plants in Norham originally came from higher upstream. This hypothesis appears to be supported by the distribution map produced by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (https://bsbi.org/maps?taxonid=2cd4p9h.4nc), which shows records of Yellow Anemone at various points along the stretch of the Teviot, at Hawick, Denholm, Ancrum, and Kelso.
(The image I used for this blog can be found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anemone_ranunculoides_bgiu.jpg.)