Friday, July 22, 2011

Butterbur leaves

click photo to enlarge
The UK isn't the first place that comes to mind when we consider the giants of nature. On a world scale our rivers aren't big: the longest is the Severn at 220 miles (354 kilometres). Nor are our mountains very high, with Ben Nevis at 4,409 feet (1,344 metres) the tallest peak. Neither does the area of our biggest lakes stand comparison with many other countries. The highest sea cliffs exceed 400 metres, middling in world terms, but our biggest land animal -the red deer - is relatively small, and our tallest tree, a Douglas Fir 210 feet tall, is only a little more than half the height of the tallest Giant Redwood. But, size isn't everything, and what the UK lacks in the giants of the natural world it makes up for in the variety that it offers in a relatively small area.

However, it wasn't variety that I thought about when I was photographing these leaves of the common butterbur (Petasites hybridus) , but rather their size. They are the largest leaves of any British plant with a diameter anywhere between 40cm and 70cm. But, despite this unique position in Britain's flora, and the fact that I have known the plant since I first saw it as a child in the wet lanes and riversides of the Yorkshire Dales, at the time I was taking my shots I couldn't bring its name to mind. It must be my age catching up with me. But, when I'd finally named it correctly I remembered that we also used to call it "wild rhubarb", though I now know it to belong an entirely different family from the cultivated crop.

As a photographic subject butterbur isn't terribly promising, though I did think that if I'd had a small child with me I might have been able to do something with it. However, when I saw this patch of butterbur reflected in the relatively calm water it did seem to offer possibilities.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 175mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 250
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On