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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri) is a rare species in Britain found in unimproved grassland. It is usually solitary, but can occur in small groups.
It is listed as vulnerable across Europe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
Hemlock has umbrella-like white flowers, which appear in dome shaped rounded clumps in summer, which are usually 2-5 cm across.
One of the easiest ways to identify Hemlock is by its stems – which are mostly large, hairless and have purple spots or blotches along their length.
The leaves are fine and look similar to ferns – lacy and similar to that of others in the carrot family.
Hemlock is one of the UK’s tallest native umbellifer species, growing up to 2 metres and can smell quite unpleasant. The unpleasant smell is caused by the poisonous chemicals and acts as a deterrent to animals.
All parts of this plant are poisonous and all members of this family should be treated with caution, notably because Hemlock can be easily mistaken for Cow Parsley and other harmless members of it’s family.
The hairless purple blotched stems are key to identifying this plant (pictured), as well as the extremely unpleasant smell.
It can also be distinguished through it’s flowering time, as it flowers after Cow Parsley, and around the same time as Hogweed, in June and July.
Hemlock could be confused with Hogweed, Upright Hedge-parsley and Hemlock Water-dropwort (also poisonous).
Likes damp places such as along streams, but can also be found growing in dry habitats such as scrubland and waste land.
Widespread in most of England and the lowland areas of Wales, also found in some southern or coastal areas of Scotland.
We must remember that almost all wild plants & fungi are no danger to us as we go about our days. Plants are the foundation of life, and we need a world rich in plants to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises.
Also known as “Hardheads” or “Black knapweed”, this wild flower is one of our toughest meadow plants.
Knapweed is a firm favourite of our pollinating insects, being a source of good quality nectar. And as well as supporting our bee, butterflies and beetles its seeds provide food for many birds.
Somewhat thistle-like, common knapweed can be identified by its slightly spherical black/brown flower head, growing alone, topped with purple, pink or (more rarely) white. The bracts are triangular in shape. Its leaves are linear to lance-like in shape with incomplete lobes.
Greater knapweed – a close relation – is similar but its flowers are more garish and opulent and its leaves are fully lobed.
Found throughout Britain.
Knapweed is a wild flower of meadows and other grassland habitats from lawns to cliff-tops. It can often be seen on road verges where wildlife is allowed to thrive and also in hedges.
In flower, June to September.
A native wild relative of the familiar garden vegetable.
Wild Leek has globe-like heads on stems that can grow to a metre tall. Its leaves are just like the common garden leek, although the stem is not quite so fat. All parts have a strong onion scent.
County flower of Cardiff/Caerdydd.
Found wild on Flat Holm island just off the Cardiff coast, what better than the wild leek for representing the nation’s capital?
Just one locality on Ynys Mon (Anglesey) in North Wales and on a couple of islands in the Severn Estuary, two other forms of wild leek (var. bulbifera and var. babingtonii) are distributed around the coast of the British Isles.
Sandy and rocky places near the sea, especially in old fields and hedge banks, on sheltered cliff-slopes, by paths and tracks and in drainage ditches and other disturbed places.
Flowers from late June to August
Wild Leek is believed to have be en introduced to Britain. It is a scarce species, naturalised in only a few areas.
Wild Leek, image by Robbie Blackhall-Miles
Wild Leek on Anglesey, image by Trevor Dines
‘How in bloom they will resemble Moths, the gloss of mirrors, Christmas Stars, their helmets blushing Red-brown when they marry’ – Medbh McGuckian, ‘The Orchid House’
Flowers in dense spike, white, pink or pale purple, with darker streak and loop markings. Pointed leaves with round purple blotches.
It is often confused with the Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). Common Spotted-orchid has broader leaves with wider blotches and flowers with a more deeply lobed lip.
It is more common in northern and western Britain. It is very plentiful along peaty roadsides in parts of Scotland.
It grows in damp places in marshes, bogs, and acid grassland. It prefers sunny places on lowlands or hills. Whilst it can be found in slightly damp meadows, it is also found in the undergrowth of dry forests, at the edges of streams and in areas with bushes. It grows on siliceous and calcareous substrate.
When in flower, from June to August
The genus name Dactylorhiza is formed from the Greek words “daktylos” meaning “finger” and “rhiza” meaning “root”, referring to the tubers of this plant, that are split into several tubercles. The specific Latin name maculata meaning spotted refers to the stained leaves.
It is also known as the Moorland Spotted Orchid.
In fact the second part of its scientific name – lactea – means ‘milky’ in Latin. It has creeping stems originating from a rosette of leaves about its base.
A species of humid heathland and grass heath in southern England, largely confined to key heathland districts including the Wealden and Thames Basin heaths, the New Forest and Dorset heaths, and through much of Devon and Cornwall (though rarely ever commonly).
Pale Dog-violet is a species of humid heathland and grass heath (including the Culm grasslands), favouring areas with short vegetation and considerable bare ground created by burning, grazing or incidental disturbance such as rutting, turf cutting etc.
The species’ greatest threat comes from the cessation of traditional management practices, notably winter swaling (burning of dead grass and dwarf shrubs) and traditional stock grazing, ideally by cattle and/or ponies.
May and June whilst flowering.
Pale Dog-violet in grass
Its Latin name, morio, means ‘fool’ and refers to the jester-like motley of its green and purple flowers.
It can sometimes be confused with the early-purple orchid – the difference is in the leaves, which are not spotted, and the sepals which have green veins.
Green-winged orchid was chosen as the County Flower of Ayrshire. It can also be seen growing at our Joan’s Hill Farm Reserve in Herefordshire.
Widespread in most of England but has become scarce in the south-west. It is also less common in the north of England. It is well known on the Welsh coast and can be found in one small area on the west coast of Scotland
The green-winged orchid has many names in Scotland, suggesting a lively folklore: hen’s kames (combs), bull’s bags, dog’s dubbles, keet legs and deid man’s thoombs!
– Geoffrey Grigson, “The Englishman’s Flora”
One of our most magnificent wild flowers with feathery leaves and large purple blooms with a central boss of golden stamens.
The Pasqueflower blooms around Easter, hence the name “Pasque” (meaning “like Paschal”, of Easter). Its bell-like flowers open to track the path of the sun each day, nodding and closing at night. These are often followed by feathery seed heads. It’s a perennial plant, froming a neat clump of soft, hairy leaves.
A large purple bloom with a central boss of golden stamens and feathery leaves.
Dry calcareous grasslands, limestone banks and hillsides.
April when it flowers.
A rare wildflower which has been lost from many of the places it used to grow. Lack of grazing and scrub encroachment pose a serious threat to many of the remaining populations and it is considered “Vulnerable” in Britain.
Pasqueflower, image by Mark Schofield
In fact, it’s incredibly tough and resilient. It needs to be given the environment it grows in: the harebell is a wild flower of dry, open places from the bare slopes of hills to the windswept coast.
Hanging blue bells on slender stalks. Grows 15-40cm tall. Roundish leaves at base, very narrow linear leaves up thin stem. (Source: the National Plant Monitoring Scheme Species Identification Guide).
Dry, grassy places. From mountain tops to sand dunes. Quite catholic in its choice of habitats: as happy on chalk grasslands as on acid heaths, and under tall bracken as on exposed cliff tops. However, damp is one condition that harebells cannot tolerate.
July to September.
Generally stable although there have been some local declines at the edges of its range.
Harebell flowers in a meadow
Harebell, image by Cath Shellswell
A low, creeping herb, with long-stalked, light green, trefoil-shaped leaves. The flowers have five white petals, veined in lilac or purple.
In woodland, on hedgerows, banks and in other moist, usually shaded, habitats throughout the British Isles.
In flower April to May, and sometimes a second time in summer.
Remaining widespread throughout the U.K., it is one of the few species able to survive the deep shade of conifer plantations.
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