Lathraea clandestina

This is a post for no particular reason except that I thought you might be interested. Lathraea clandestina, known as Purple toothwort, is a really strange and slightly creepy plant that grows in profusion at the bottom of our ‘garden’ by the stream around the willows.

When I first saw it in March I thought it was a clump of crocuses—it’s the same sort of purple. On closer inspection it turned out to be not crocuses, and there were clumps of it everywhere. The flowers are large and like hooked teeth and grow at ground level in big clusters. There are no leaves.

It gave me a slightly uneasy feeling so I looked it up on a plant site. It’s native to south west France and northern Spain and grows from the roots of damp-loving trees like willows and alders. A complete parasite, it pokes its head(s) out of the soil in March and flowers a single large purple tooth flower on each scaly stem that you see only if you scrabble the leaf mould away. In June the flowers form pods and explode with uncanny violence. When the spores are dispersed, the plant sinks back into the ground again, leaving no visible trace at all. Hence the local name, Clandestine.

I don’t know about you, but it makes my flesh creep.



Apart from having a nasty flu bug, and mail still not connected which is a right royal pain, I have two reasons to celebrate. First, today I was offered a contract for the sequel to Abomination. I’ve been writing blurbs and tag lines, a real chore. Does anybody actually enjoy writing blurbs? It means there won’t be an unreasonable hiatus between volumes one and two, nor with volume three if I send the manuscript in soon.


I’m also pressing ahead with the follow on series to The Green Woman. 60k words on the clock of volume two so far. I’m hoping to give the whole thing a makeover. That might take us into 2017 though.

As if that isn’t enough to celebrate, our house-buying plans are going smoothly. The obligatory once-over has revealed nothing more terrifying than dodgy electricity (we knew that from the porcelain plugs and switches), and a bit of lead piping that ‘needs watching’. There are no drains worthy of the name, and heating seemed to come mainly from the adjoining cowshed. But it’s the south, the winters are mild, we’ll dig a drain and change some of the porcelain light switches. Our youngest is trying to convince us to get a herd of llamas for the grass/meadow since the stabling won’t be a problem, and I don’t think you have to milk llamas. Not like goats that don’t eat the right kind of grass either.


As an aside, I have been asked why I don’t write about my ‘experiences’ living in France, and I suppose the answer has to be, would you write about your experiences living in a semi in Stoke? If that’s what you know, there’s nothing extraordinary in it. I’ve never bought a house anywhere but France, never dealt with workmen anywhere but France, never had children or sent them to school, anywhere but France. There’s a lucrative market in writing ‘humorous’ books about life with the baguette and beret brigade, which generally involves poking fun at the ‘French way’. Sod that. I live here—if they do it, chances are I do it too. Seems to me, the people who write these slapstick comedies don’t really live here. They’re voyeurs, ex-pats, people who feel their real lives are somewhere else.

So, I won’t be writing posts about how hilarious French plumbers can be, but I hope I’ll be writing pieces based on our new found country peace and quiet. I hope. Just so long as the neighbour doesn’t decide to swap his sheep for quad bikes…