kenny hodgart

Let’s be nicer about Spanish tarts

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This article appeared in The Herald

An odd injunction from the Royal Horticultural Society this week. The body, somewhat revered on the subject of flowers, has advised gardeners to go about rooting out certain species of bluebell, specifically Spanish ones, on account of their being now almost as common as native British varieties.

If you are into botany, you may well be out there already with a shovel, happily beating Spanish bulbs to a pulp. You will, at least, know that the bad ‘uns have straighter stalks and more blossoms than their besieged cousins, who, incidentally, seem remarkably resilient for all the grim forecasts – every couple of years – of their imminent extinction.

Now, I’m all for calling the Spanish to order over their shameless fish-plundering ways, but I stop short at being spiteful towards their flowers simply for being more winsome than ours. The Royal Society’s position seems to be that the invaders are tarts, which really won’t do. We may not have been allowed to vote on the last round of European integration, but if we carry on like this, our Euro friends won’t even invite us along to hum and haw about the next one.

The problem with conservationists of all stripes is that they believe fluctuations in species of wildlife are always either the fault of man or his responsibility to redress. The good health of the grey squirrel is a perennial disappointment to them, but this week a spokesman for something called the Mammal Society went gunning for mink, which, it transpires, have been doing the water vole population of Skye no good ever since activists started “liberating” them from farms. “As a non-native invasive species,” said a man named Roger Cottis, “mink need to be removed from our environment.”

Last year, there was a great fuss about bees dying off, with the usual suspects blaming it on GM crops and global warming. It later emerged that this was tripe and that while bee numbers in Europe have fallen, globally there are more of the blighters than ever. Perhaps a similar story will do for the panic about water voles, whose welfare, to be sure, would improve incalculably if there was a cull of domestic cats.

At any rate, there is now doubtless some directive or other in motion to increase the numbers of bees in the EU. But will the British bee know in future which bluebells to pollinate and which to shun? Nature is remarkable in its powers, but this is probably asking too much.

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