As the midsummer equinox approaches it’s not the sun or the length of day that piques my attention. Instead it’s the honeysuckle magically rambling in the woods with its addictively sweet perfume; and suddenly a Midsummer Night’s Dream comes vividly to life.
Today we most frequently come across honeysuckle in our parks and gardens, and at this time of year it will often be their scent that you notice first, especially when you’re in a new or unfamiliar place. But before we brought honeysuckle into a domestic setting, it grew (and still does grow) in a scrambling fashion, in hedgerows and woodland edges.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time I first came across a honeysuckle pollen grain. It was in a sample from a Bronze Age palaeochannel, one that was not too far from archaeological remains of the same period. But also in that sample were other pollen types that were indicative of water and damp, lush woodland - oak, hazel, alder and ferns. Was the honeysuckle used medicinally? Or for cordage? Or did people just walk down to the woods to inhale that beautiful smell? The answer likely lies tangled in all of those things, but for me it is not necessarily about finding ‘an answer’ to those questions, but about the scent opening-up my imagination...
(Above: Pollen of Lonicera periclymenum. The grains are relatively large and this one is 75 µm at the widest point.)