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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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A very rare find, Big Blue Pinkgill Entoloma bloxamii grows in unfertilised, long-established grasslands, usually on neutral or calcareous soils
In 2019 it was listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in the UK, and a large area of mainland Europe.
With thanks to Debbie Evans for our image.
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
A prickly, sprawling evergreen shrub in the Cypress family with short spiky leaves.
Juniper blooms with small yellow flowers, followed by ‘berries’ – actually fleshy cones, that start green but ripen to blue-black.
These are famously used to flavour gin and certain meat dishes particularly game and venison. Used whole they impart a bitter, crunchy bite to savoury dishes. In fact, the word “Gin” derives from either genièvre or jenever – the French and Dutch words for “juniper”
Juniper is dioecious, which means that it is either male or female, unlike most tree species. The form of individual bushes varies from being low and prostrate at the one extreme to cylindrical and conical at the other.
In the Saving England’s Lowland Juniper project, Plantlife joined forces with landowners, supported by Natural England, to revitalise Juniper across southern England. 48 patches of land at nine sites in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire were scraped back to create a grassland habitat suitable for Juniper to regenerate.
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It spreads to form small patches of plain green hairless leaves that are carried in pairs and look similar to a large version of Thyme, hence the name.
The tips of the shoots rise up and turn into short flower spikes, bearing a succession of tiny white or pale blue flowers, 5-6mm across. Look closely and you’ll see that their uppermost petal is usually veined with darker blue. Only a few flowers open at a time and their pale colour can make this plant hard to spot.
Found throughout the UK.
Grows in a wide range of dry and damp places including grassy pastures, lawns and verges as well as woodland rides, heaths and cultivated land and waste ground.
When in flower, from March to October.
Its small leaves are triangular in shape and deeply toothed.
The beautiful bright blue flowers – which can be a centimetre across and have a white eye – are carried on small spikes in the axils of the leaves. Note that if the flowers are not on spikes but each one comes directly from the leaf axils then you might be looking at slender speedwell, Veronica filiformis instead.
Found throughout the UK, but rare on the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
Generally grows in grassy places like meadows, pastures, verges and lawns, as well as in woods, hedgerows and waste ground.
When in flower, from March to July.
Like other speedwells found in the wild, it was believed that Germander speedwell was good luck for travellers, and wearing it in your buttonhole would “speed you well” on your journey.
Image by Matt Prosser
Image by Andrew Gagg
An evergreen perennial, it spreads by means of long, leafy runners. Spikes of purplish-blue flowers grow to from dense mats of dark green leaves with purple highlights. It is sometimes confused with Selfheal, however on this plant the flowers are arranged more tightly at the top of the stem.
In damp woods, hedge banks and meadows throughout the UK.
Bugle continues to be common in its preferred habitats.
Bugle on a lawn, image by Archie Thomas
Close up of Bugle, image by Cath Shelwell
Bugle, image by Beth Newman
The UK is home to about half of the world’s bluebell population. Perhaps its no surprise, then, that they are so popular here: when Plantlife asked the British public to vote for the “Nation’s Favourite Wildflower” it won by a significant margin both in England and the UK as a whole (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland opted for the Primrose (Primula vulgaris) instead.
Generally found in shady habitats, but also in more open ones in the damper west. It is associated with woodlands, also grows in hedgerows and grassland. Bluebells are woodland plants but, except perhaps in East Anglia, they do not need woods as much as humidity and continuity of habitat.
Although still common in Britain, bluebells are threatened locally by habitat destruction, collection from the wild, and from the escape of the Spanish bluebell from gardens and subsequent cross-breeding and loss of true native populations. The latter is a particular concern – during a survey around one in six bluebells found in broad-leaved woodland was a Spanish rather than native bluebell.
Bluebells are now protected from illegal commercial harvesting.
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