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Forget-me-not (Common)

Myosotis arvensis

Our most common Forget-me-not is often found as a “weed” of arable land. It is also known as Field Forget-me-not. It is a greyish coloured plant, its very small, bright blue flowers (sometimes interspersed with pink) occur in spikes. The leaves are oval and hairy, the ones at the base forming a rosette.

Where to spot it

Forget-me-not (Common) can be found on cultivated land, roadsides, waste ground and dunes. It flowers from April to September.

How’s it doing?

Found throughout Britain and Ireland, it is more common in areas where land is put to arable use. Despite changes in agricultural practice, distribution of has remained stable since 1900, probably due partly to its flexible life history and seed longevity.

Things you might not know

  • In the Language of Flowers Forget-me-not stands for true love and memories.
  • Its Latin name arvensis means ‘of or growing in cultivated fields or land’.
  • Forget-me-nots used to be known as ‘scorpion-grass’. The current name only appeared in the early 19th century. The name Scorpion-grass arose because the flower clusters are more or less bent over or coiled. Other common names include Bird’s eye, Robin’s eye, Mammy-flooer, Snake-grass and Love-me. The latter is related to the fact that the plant was a symbol of love, and if you wore it you were not forgotten by your lover.
  • Their seeds form in small pods along the stem and attach to clothing when brushed against, eventually falling off, allowing the small seed within to germinate elsewhere.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Brooklime

Veronica beccabunga

How to spot it

Brooklime has delicate blue flowers held on fleshy stems, often forming lush clumps near water. The spikes of pretty blue flowers ascending in pairs from the leaf base are a clue that this plant is a member of the Speedwell family. Brooklime is a perennial sprawling herb with a dense mass of succulent leaves. Like many water plants, it has hollow stems which help to transfer oxygen to the roots.

Where to spot it

It grows at the waterline of riverbanks and in wet meadows, marshes, ponds, streams and ditches. It is found throughout the UK except in the Scottish Highlands.

How’s it doing?

Brooklime is doing well in its preferred habitats.

Things you might not know

  • Brooklime was used as a salad plant in much of northern Europe in the past.
  • It used to be eaten with watercress and oranges to help prevent scurvy.
  • Although edible, the leaves are bitter and the same precautions should be taken with them, as with watercress, in order to avoid liver fluke.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Fingered Speedwell is a low-growing, hairy plant with deep blue flowers.

How to spot it

Fingered Speedwell has leaves that rarely grow longer than a centimetre and are deeply divided into parallel-fingered lobes. Its upper leaves are stalkless, whereas the lower leaves have short stalks. Its flowers are borne at the tip of the stem amongst leaf-like structures called bracts.

Where to spot it

Fingered Speedwell is restricted to just a few sites in East Anglia (Breckland) and Yorkshire. Generally an arable species, it is typically found in the margins of fields sown with winter cereals and also on fallow land or waste places. It has also been recorded in tracks, gravel pits, sand banks and disturbed parched grassland. It favours sandy calcareous or slightly acidic soils.

Single Fingered Speedwell flower among its bracts, surrounded by parallel-fingered lobes.

How’s it doing?

Fingered Speedwell is classified as ‘Endangered’ and is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. It is protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This makes it an offence to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy any plants. The species is also listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

What is the cause of its decline?

The main causes of the decline of Fingered Speedwell are a direct result of the intensification of arable farming. Key factors include the introduction of broad-spectrum herbicides and the high increase in nitrogen fertiliser used on modern crop systems. Several sites have also been lost to development.

Big Blue Pinkgill

Entoloma bloxamii

Months

Season

Colour

A chunky blue mushroom laid out on grass

How to identify

CapA distinctive blue-grey colour when fresh. Conical at first
becoming convex and developing an umbo (a raised area in the centre of the mushroom cap)
Cap diameterTo 10cm
GillsWhite, becoming salmon pink, and broadly attached.
StemColour as cap, sometimes paler at the base, and fibrillose
Flesh
SporesBrownish/pink

 

Where to find them?

A very rare find, Big Blue Pinkgill Entoloma bloxamii grows in unfertilised, long-established grasslands, usually on neutral or calcareous soils

Did you know?

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.

 

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

Juniper

Juniperis communis

Juniper berries.

Description

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.

Close up photo of a Juniper berry on a bush

Did you know?

  • Juniper dates back 10,000 years and was one of the first tree species to colonise the UK after the last Ice Age.
  • Juniper berries are used to flavour gin and have other uses like firewood or as a substitute for barbed wire.
  • Juniper plants take at least seven years to grow and are vulnerable to being eaten by animals.
  • In the 19th century, large tracts of Juniper were harvested for fuel for illicit trade of unlicensed whisky stills
  • It has also been called Bastard killer as the berries were swallowed to procure abortions. Its reputation as an abortifacient has echoes in the Victorian belief that gin (aptly called ‘Mother’s ruin’) was effective for the same purpose.
gloved hand holding juniper berries with the reverse the red blog

What is Plantlife doing?

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.

 
Read more

a field of grass field with a variety of flowers in pink, purple, yellow and white

How can I help?

Become a grassland guardian and help restore 10,000 hectares of species-rich grassland by 2030. Donate today.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

Silene flos-cuculi

Red Campion

Red Campion

Silene dioica

Thyme-leaved Speedwell

Veronica serpyllifolia

Despite being very common and widespread, this small speedwell is easily overlooked in lawns, meadows and pastures.

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.

Distribution

Found throughout the UK.

Habitat

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.

Best time to see

When in flower, from March to October.

Did you know?

  • This flower is tolerant of trampling and is often found on the edges of paths and in field gateways.

Other Species

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort

Adder's Tongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

Alexanders

Alexanders

Smyrnium olusatrum

Basil Thyme

Basil Thyme

Clinopodium acinos

Germander Speedwell

Veronica chamaedrys

A blue Germander Speedwell flower in a lush green meadow.

A low, creeping plant, germander speedwell spreads with thin stems that creep over the surface of the ground, forming distinct mats or patches amongst the grass or hedgerow.

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.

Distribution

Found throughout the UK, but rare on the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.

Habitat

Generally grows in grassy places like meadows, pastures, verges and lawns, as well as in woods, hedgerows and waste ground.

Best time to see

When in flower, from March to July.

Micro moth on a Germander Speedwell

Did you know?

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.

Other Species

Bluebell
Bluebell close-up.

Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bugle
A close up of a blue bugle plant.

Bugle

Ajuga reptans

Cowslip
Cowslip Close Up.

Cowslip

Primula Veris

Bugle

Ajuga reptans

A close up of a blue bugle plant.

This wild flower’s deep blue flower spikes may be found carpeting damp glades and meadows.

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.

Where to find Bugle

In damp woods, hedge banks and meadows throughout the UK.

How’s it doing?

Bugle continues to be common in its preferred habitats.

Did you know?

  • Bugle is much loved by bumblebees.
  • The ‘reptans’ in its Latin name is derived from ‘repto’, meaning ‘creeping, crawling’.
  • It was a popular ingredient in herbal remedies, particularly for stopping bleeding.

Other Species

Bluebell
Bluebell close-up.

Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bugle
A close up of a blue bugle plant.

Bugle

Ajuga reptans

Cowslip
Cowslip Close Up.

Cowslip

Primula Veris

Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Months

Season

Colour

Habitat

Bluebell close-up.

Its bell-like flowers with up-rolled tips carpet forest floors in the spring and its distinctive scent attracts bees beneath the trees.

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.

Where to find Bluebell

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.

How’s it doing?

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.

A bluebell wood

Did you know?

  • In the Language of Flowers it symbolises everlasting love.
  • Its root sap was used to glue feathers onto arrows in the Middle Ages and to stiffen ruffs in Tudor times.
  • It is dedicated to England’s Patron Saint, St George.
  • Vernacular names include Granfer Griggles and Cra’tae, i.e. crow’s toes.
  • According to Richard Mabey (1996) “The traditional ‘non-script’ – meaning ‘unlettered’ – portion of the name is to distinguish the British hyacinth from the classical hyacinth, a mythical flower sprung from the blood of the dying prince Hyacinthus, on whose petals Apollo inscribed the letters AI AI – ‘alas’ – to express his grief.”
  • Bluebells flower in colours ranging from white (quite common), through to grey, pale blue, lilac to dark cobalt.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum