Skip to main content

Field Pansy is a delicate flower from the Violet family, and is the wild relative of the Garden Pansy. It’s a small low-growing perennial which can be easily confused with the Wild Pansy, however it has much smaller flowers. It is self-fertile and attracts butterflies such as the Queen of Spain Fritillary which will lay its eggs on the plant.

How to spot it

The flowers of Field Pansy are solitary and 15mm across. They have creamy yellow petals which are sometimes bluish-violet. Its sepals are pointed, and often longer than or the same length as the petals. Its stipules look like lobed leaves, and the leaves are oblong in shape. The plant grows up to 20cm tall.

Where to spot it

While Field Pansy can be found throughout the UK, it is more common in the East half of the UK and SE Ireland. It’s most commonly found in dry arable field margins and waste spaces.

Things you might not know

  • Pansies take their name from the French ‘pensee’ meaning thought.
  • Field Pansy’s flowers are edible and the leaves and flowers are rich in vitamins A and C.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

How to spot it

Bastard Balm has large pea-like flowers that are highly aromatic which makes this woodland plant attractive to bumblebees and butterflies. This tall, striking plant likes shady places, but, sadly, has now become an uncommon sight. It is a member of the mint family. Bastard Balm has erect hairy stems on which grow opposite pairs of oval, bluntly toothed and softly hairy leaves. The flowers are white with a large pinkish purple blotch on the lower lip, and grow in the axils of the leaves.

Where to spot it

It prefers shady environments, usually in woodland, on woodland edges and hedge banks, and is found only in south west England, the New Forest and south west Wales.

How’s it doing?

The distribution of Bastard Balm in Devon and Cornwall is apparently stable, but it has declined markedly elsewhere over the past twenty years as a result of overshading and pony grazing, although at some sites it has reappeared after scrub clearance and coppicing.

Things you might not know

  • The scientific name ‘melittis’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘honeybee’ referring to the plant’s attractiveness to bees.
  • Bastard Balm’s distinctive pink tongue acts as a landing guide to bees, directing them to the nectar deep inside.
  • The plant is known as a healing herb used for the treatment of anxiety, wounds and kidneys.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ragged Robin

Silene flos-cuculi

How to spot it

The petals of Ragged Robin are deep pink or white, with each divided into four narrow lobes. Its leaves are narrow and rough to touch.

Where it grows

Ragged Robin’s dishevelled beauty is a common site in damp meadows. It also grows in wetter woodland.

How’s it doing?

Many counties have recorded a local decline in Ragged Robin numbers, mainly from habitat loss to agriculture. However, overall, it is still considered of least concern.

Things you might not know

  • Ragged Robin is dedicated to St. Barnabas. Why? Hay-making took place around his Feast Day (11th June) and this bright pink flower would been found amongst the hay.
  • In Shakespeare’s time it was known as Crowflower and is one of the flowers in Ophelia’s “garland”.
  • In the the Victorian “Language of Flowers” it symbolises ardour, aversion, and wit.
  • It is particularly attractive to long-tongued bees.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

White Campion is a common wildflower of grassland and waste ground. Its cheerful white flowers can be seen from spring to autumn.

How to spot it

The clear white flowers of the White Campion have five petals, each deeply notched and almost divided into two and its opposite, oval leaves and stems are hairy. In places where it grows with Red Campion, the two may hybridise to produce pinky white blooms.

Where to spot it

White Campion grows on waste ground, disturbed roadside verges, hedgerows and well-drained arable field margins. It is in flower from May to October. It’s common throughout the British Isles, but has declined slightly at the western edge of its range.

Things you might not know

  • At night the blooms produce a clovey scent, attracting many feeding moths.
  • White campion was one of the ingredients in 16th Century Elizabethan pot pourri.
  • The root has been used as a soap substitute for washing clothes, hair etc.
  • It is thought to have been introduced to the country by neolithic farmers and remains of it have been found on neolithic and bronze age sites.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Bladder Campion

Silene vulgaris

This pretty flower is named after the inflated bladder-like sac behind the petals. Growing between 60cm and 1m tall this white wildflower is also known as ‘Maidens Tears’, ‘Cowbell’, and ‘Common Bladder Catchfly’ even though it doesn’t technically catch flies!

How to spot it

Bladder Campion is a perennial wildflower with a green bladder-like calyx with purple veins make it easily identifiable. The ragged looking white flowers, which grow at the end of the bladder, have five two-lobed petals and are roughly 2cm wide with long protruding stamens. It is said they have an aroma similar to that of cloves. Many flower heads can be found on one medium height plant. Its stalkless bluish-green leaves are long and thin on mature plants.

Where to spot it

It is fairly common in Britain, but is mostly found in the south of England in meadows and fields, and along roadside verges, dry banks, and hedgerows.

Things you might not know

  • The young leaves are sometimes added to salads in the Mediterranean where it grows much more abundantly.
  • During the summer months, Bladder Campion can often found covered in ‘Cuckoo Spit’ as this is a favourite food-plant of the Froghopper. The early English botanist John Gerard called it ‘Spatling Poppie’ for this very reason.
  • In Roman mythology the Goddess Minerva turned the young boy Campion into this plant after he fell asleep instead of catching flies for her owls. The bladder represents the bag he should have filled.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Summer Snowflake

Leucojum aestivum

How to spot it

Summer Snowflake has dainty bell-shaped flowers which are white in colour.

Where to spot it

It flourishes in boggy areas, as well as in riverside marshes and wet open woodland. Despite its common name it actually flowers from April to May.

Things you might not know

  • Summer Snowflake is the county flower of Berkshire.
  • It grows beside the River Loddon in Berkshire, where its local name is the Loddon lily.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Strawberry (wild)

Fragaria vesca

Before the advent of the familiar garden strawberry Fragaria x ananassa (actually a hybrid created from two American species) our ancestors enjoyed our wild, native variety of Strawberry.

How to spot it

Strawberry (wild) is common across the UK but rarer in north Scotland. It thrives in a variety of environments from roadsides to hill slopes to forest clearings. White flowers appear in spring followed by the recognisable red fruit in the summer.

Things you might not know

  • The origin of the name “Strawberry” is a bit of a mystery. While it likely derives from the Old English streawberige – meaning, quite literally, “the berry associated with straw” – quite what this association is remains open to conjecture. The plant doesn’t particularly grow amongst straw nor does it bear much of a physical resemblance.
  • In Richard III, Shakespeare writes: “When I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you send for some of them”. It is thought that he is certainly talking about our native, wild strawberries.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Garlic Mustard

Alliaria petiolata

Also known as Hedge Garlic or Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic Mustard appears in hedgerows and open woodland in early Spring.

How to spot it

Garlic Mustard sometimes grows to over a metre tall and has leaves that are broadly heart shaped, stalked, with numerous broad teeth, and clusters of small white cross-shaped flowers. The whole plant smells of garlic when crushed.

Where to spot it

It can be found in shady areas of hedgerows and waste places, and open woodland, mostly on fertile moist soils. It flowers from April to June throughout the UK, but is particularly common in England and Wales.

How’s it doing?

Garlic Mustard is still very common throughout the UK and is therefore of least concern.

Things you might not know

  • The seeds of Garlic Mustard have been taken like snuff to cause sneezing.
  • Garlic Mustard is a food source for the caterpillars of the orange tip butterfly.
  • Country people at one time used the plant in sauces, with bread and butter, salted meat and with lettuce in salads. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was used as a flavouring in sauces for fish and lamb.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Burnt-tip Orchid

Orchis ustulata

Burnt-tip Orchid is a white orchid with a deep crimson peak – the “burnt tip” in question.

How to spot it

This small orchid can be difficult to spot. Plants grow from a tuber which is replaced each year and tend to grow in small clumps. Pale green leaves form a rosette from which a flower spike holding between 15-50 flowers emerges.

Where to spot it

Burnt-tip Orchid is confined to a scattering of sites in southern England, especially the Wiltshire Downs. It is found in short, chalk downland turf, and occasionally strays into meadows.

How’s it doing?

Burnt-tip Orchid was once more common and its scarce population continues to decline. This decline is due to changes in agricultural practices.

Things you might not know

  • Burnt-tip Orchid is the County Flower of Wiltshire, where the largest colonies can be found.
  • The flowers smell of honey but produce no nectar.
  • Ustulata comes from the Latin word ustulus which means ‘slightly burnt.’

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Branched Bur-reed

Sparganium erectum

How to spot it

Branched Bur-reed is a quirky looking waterside plant with spherical flowers. It might occasionally be mistaken for its unbranched relative (appropriately named ‘Unbranched Bur-reed’) but little else. Branched Bur-reed is a tall plant with linear leaves that lie broadside on to stem. The smaller male flowers sit above the female flowers on the stem.

Where to spot it

This wild plant is widespread around the UK, growing by waters edge, ponds, slow rivers, marshy ground and ditches. Branched Bur-reed is an easily uprooted plant and so prefers slower waters.

How’s it doing?

Branched Bur-reed is commonly found in its preferred habitats.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum