The MAY Hedge

A month in the life of a Hedge!


Hawthorn hedges suports many pairs and species of birds as it provides dense cover and comes into leaf earlier. In England such a hedge would have 34 pairs and 19 different species per 1000 metres. The dawn chorus is best during the first half of May. The various stories of the hedge harbour different birds: 1st Storey- robins and wrens nest in the hedge-bank, 2nd Storey – in the hedge shrubs you find song-thrushes, bullfinches, greenfinches, gold-finches and long-tailed tits. 3rd Storey - tits love holes so only hedges with mature trees have them. 4th Storey - the carrion crow and magpie love the upper branches of mature trees. Blackbirds and chaffinches are equally at home in hedgerow and woodland.

MAY BEALTAINE (‘bright fire’)

A great fire was lit outside, deriving from a desire to encourage the sun. Some greenery was brought into the souse, symbolising prosperity, and in athe 18th century young people dressed up in greenery . The May bush – a hawthorn or whitethorn- was cut and brought home where it was decorated with garlands and eggshells. In Fingal it was the custom for young girls to make garlands from whitethorn blossom for their hair.


Blossom Petal Ice Cream Petals of crab-apple or cherry, 150 ml or quarter pt. Double cream, 40 g icing sugar, 2tbs orange flower water, 2 stiffly beaten egg whites. Steep the petals in heated orange flower water for an hour. Whip the cream with the sifted sugar until thick, then mix in the petals and orange flower water. Fold in the egg whites and freeze.


Gather some of the young leaves and buds and wash them. Dry them and put on pieces of fried bread. Top with some grated cheese and grill until the cheese melts.


The common Hawthorn or Crataegus monogyna comes out. It’s leaves are deeply lobed and are longer than broad. The sinuses between the lobes are deep. The flowers have one style and the berry has a single stone.

Cow Parsley is the first of the umbellifers to flower and it attracts many spring insects seeking nectar and pollen. Hover flies and bees, dung flies and scorpion flies.

Alexanders, originally from southern Europe. Once grown as a vegetable because of their distinctive taste, can be found in monastic gardens as in Corcomroe Abbey in the Burren. In Ireland it was used to make’lenten pottage’, a soup of alexanders, watercress and nettles. It’s juice smells like ‘myrrh’.

Lords and Ladies (Arum) – common under shady hedges, it has a strange inflorescense which you see when you peel apart the sheath(spathe) and the base. The spathe opens at midday and gives off a scent which attracts small flies. They fall off the slippery stalk and reach the female flowers at the bottom which they pollinate if carrying pollen from another plant. After pollination the male flowers ripen, producing pollen which falls on to the flies. The flowers then wilt letting the flies escape with the chance to visit another plant. The orange-red berries produced in September are very poisonous.


The Bush Vetch(Vicia sepium) is in shadier grassy hedges, it has pale purple flowers.

Stitchwort It was supposed to cure a stitch in the side, the stitch was caused by elf-shot, shot by the elves who own this plant. This plant loves shade, its white, star-like flowers are also called Star of Bethlehem. It grows in grassy habitats.


THE first PEACOCK butterflies come out of hibernation and flutter between the hedges

The ORANGE-TIP spends the winter as the pupa and emerges in May, or by the end of April. The eggs are then laid in June on the cuckooflower and hedge garlic. The colour of the caterpillars is like the seed-pods of the foodplant.


It’s colour helps to camouflate it when at rest under damp hedges or in woodland. It spends the winter as a pupa and emerges in May. It produces tow generations. The caterpilars of the 1st generation feed in June and July, the adults appear in July and August. These lay eggs and the larvae then feed in late summer and pupate to emerge the next spring.


It spends the winter as a pup and the butterfly emerges at the end of April. Like the Green-veined White, it also produces two broods a year.

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