Promoting Intertidal Sciences, Conservation & Education Studies | blog | 2nd Oct | Dr Mike Kent

Early in September, I was on the coast path between Polzeath and Pentire Point. Summer was over; school had started; the smell of autumn was in the air. Except for the occasional late-flowering thrift, most of the spring and summer flowers had gone, leaving the slopes a grubby green-brown. The sky was grey; even the sun was hiding. The day was dull and so was I.

With a mind filled with problems that I thought important, I was taking a walk to lighten my mood. Being outdoors by the sea did not help as much as it usually does. Therefore, I stopped, got down on my hands and knees and searched for something to brighten the landscape and my mood. Rummaging through the grass, I found what I was looking for: the exquisite blooms of the tiny Autumn squill, Scilla autumnalis. This maritime plant is so small that it barely rises above the low-lying grass. But when I examined its blue-violet petals and purple anthers, I became absorbed in its beauty and immediately felt better. To think that this delightful diminutive plant probably goes unnoticed by most walkers heading for the Point. They are missing a treat.

Returning home, I headed for my study, reference books, and Google to learn more about Scilla autumnalis. I discovered that it flowers from August to September. It is a southern European species, confined to the south and west coasts but most common in Cornwall and Devon. Although their taxonomy is under revision, Squills are commonly placed in the family Liliaceae because of their lily-like characteristics. (For those who like to know, and have a botany dictionary at hand, Liliaceae, are monocotyledenous, perennial, herbaceous, and often bulbous geophytes).

Reflecting on the calming influence on my troubled mind of the “little lily”, made me looked again at the verses in Matthew which record what our Lord said during the Sermon on the Mount to listeners worried about worldly needs:


And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

And why do you worry about clothing?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,

yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

Matthew 6: 27-29