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Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Also known as ‘kingcups’, Marsh-marigold could be one of our most ancient plants. It is thought that it was growing here before the last Ice Age!

Marsh-marigold is a member of the buttercup family, a large, almost luxuriant version of its smaller cousin with bright yellow flowers and dark, shiny leaves. The latter are kidney shaped and quite waxy to touch – although doing so too often is best avoided: like all buttercups the marsh-marigold is poisonous and can irritate the skin.

Where to spot it

Marsh-marigold is widespread throughout Britain. It can be found in wet meadows, marshes and wet woodlands and grows well in shade.

How’s it doing?

Marsh-marigold is a common native species, whose distribution remains relatively stable in Britain. It is, however, locally threatened by drainage and agricultural improvement of its wet grassland habitat. Loss of habitat through drainage and abandonment is therefore one of the key threats to Marsh-marigold.

Did you know?

Marsh-marigold is also known as Mayflower – the name of the ship that carried the Pilgrim fathers to America. In Lancashire it is known as ‘the publican’ – maybe a reflection of its sturdy nature!

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Daffodil (wild)

Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus

One Daffodil flower with pale petals and a bright yellow tube

Our native Daffodil is smaller than many garden varieties but is still a striking sight in early spring.

The Daffodil is also known as the ‘Lent lily’ or ‘Easter lily’ since it often blooms and fades within the Lenten period. The wild Daffodil is smaller than horticultural varieties, with paler petals and a deep yellow trumpet-like tube. The leaves are grey-green, thin, long and flattened. It grows in groups so can be quite an impressive sight.

Two Daffodils in the evening sunshine

Where to spot it

The native Daffodil is found in damp woods, fields, grassland and orchards.

It is a rare plant but can be abundant in some areas. The ‘golden triangle’ around the Gloucestershire villages of Newent and Dymock is famous for its wild woodland Daffodils.

A 10-mile footpath known as ‘The Daffodil Way’ runs through woods, orchards and meadows, in which the wild Daffodil is rarely out of sight. These colonies have built up over hundreds of years. It currently survives in patchy populations, often scattered across the western side of Britain.

Three Daffodils in a large Daffodil meadow on the edge of a woodland

Best time to spot it

Wild Daffodils are best spotted in the spring months of March and April.

How’s it doing?

Once one of the most common wild flowers to be found in the English and Welsh countryside, the wild Daffodil declined mysteriously in the mid-nineteenth century. Picking by passers-by doesn’t seem to have been the cause – Daffodils are relatively resistant to this practice. A more likely culprit was the simultaneous fall in cash-crops grown by locals hoping to capitalising on the flower’s popularity, combined with agricultural intensification and mismanagement of its habitat.

There is a risk that wild Daffodils will hybridise with the cultivated varieties.

Things you might not know

  • ‘Daffodil’ in Welsh is ‘Cenhinen Pedr’ – which literally translates as Pedr’s (or Peter’s) leek. The true Welsh Daffodil is the Tenby Daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp. obvallaris, a sub-species of the wild variety. Although it is likely that this was originally a cultivated flower, it now grows wild across south-west Wales.
  • Daffodil bulbs are used by pharmacists as a source of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • As well as a national symbol of Wales, the wild Daffodil is also the county flower of Gloucestershire.
  • In the Language of Flowers it represents hope, folly and unrequited love.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Colt’s-foot

Tussilago farfara

Colt's-foot flower with yellow petals, each with orange markings at the tip

Colt’s-foot is a bright, yellow daisy and is one of the first wild flowers to emerge in Spring.

The single flowers are held on scaly, crimson stems. As these start to die back, flat-fans of dark green leaves appear. These leaves are silver-white on their undersides.

Three orange-yellow Colt's-foot flowers

Where to spot it

Colt’s-foot grows in a range of habitats with open or disturbed ground, including arable land, waste land, shingle and scree, and even landslips. It grows particularly well in waste, rough and cultivated places where there is poor drainage.

Best time to spot it

Colt’s-foot is one of the early arrivals of spring. The best time to see it is throughout March and April.

Several Colt's-foot flowers, some fully in bloom and others closed or wilted

Things you might not know

  • Historically, Colt’s-foot has been used as a remedy for coughs and colds and Colt’s-foot preparations have long been used to soothe sore throats. In fact, it is sometimes called ‘Coughwort’.
  • Other vernacular names for Colt’s-foot include Disherlagie, Dishylaggie, Tushies and Cleats. The Scottish ‘Tushylucky’ and its variants come from the Latin tussilago, related to tussis, a cough.
  • Colt’s-foot also goes by another common name: Baccy plant. This is because it is considered a good substitute for tobacco!
  • The dry felt on the leaves of Colt’s-foot smoulder well and so it has also been used as tinder.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Groundsel

Senecio vulgaris

Large Groundsel growing amongst rocks and waste ground

Groundsel is a common annual weed of rough and cultivated ground. You can find its clusters of small yellow flowers appearing on road verges, in gardens and on waste ground all throughout the year.

How to spot it

The leaves of Groundsel are bright shiny green, long and raggedly lobed. The small yellow flower heads are in cluster at the ends of the stems appearing to emerge from little tubes.

Bright yellow Groundsel flowers growing on a roadside

Best time to see

You can find Groundsel in flower throughout the year.

Where it grows

Groundsel is an annual weed of cultivated or disturbed ground, cropping up along field edges, roadside verges and on waste grounds.

Are Groundsel threatened?

Groundsel continues to be widespread throughout the British Isles, although there appears to have been a decline in the Scottish Highlands, possibly due to abandoning of marginal cultivations.

Things you might not know

  • Both birds and rabbits enjoy the leaves and seeds of Groundsel, and it is widely used as food for caged birds.
  • Its name comes from an Old English word grundeswilige meaning ‘ground swallower’, reflecting its tendency to grow profusely wherever it gets a chance.
  • Groundsel is a good food source for caterpillars of butterflies and moths and is one of only two plant species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Lesser Celandine

Ficaria verna

A favourite of Wordsworth, Lesser Celandine is one of the first wildflowers to bloom.

In fact, the 21 February has been known as Celandine Day since 1795, when the renowned naturalist Gilbert White noted that the first celandines usually appeared in his Hampshire village of Selborne.

How to spot it

Its bright, yellow star-shaped flowers often blanket the ground. Each is about 3cm across with eight to twelve petals. It has rosettes of glossy dark green heart-shaped mottled long-stalked leaves.

Where it grows

Woodland and hedge banks, particularly damp places. Also meadows and stream-sides.

Best time to see

You can spot Lesser Celandine from late February to May.

Has Lesser Celandine been used in herbal medicine?

One of it’s local names is “Pilewort” since the herb was traditionally given for haemorrhoids. This was based on the doctrine of signatures since the knobbly tubers were thought to resemble piles!

Things you might not know

  • Its the floral equivalent of the swallow: both reappear around the same time and herald the coming of spring. In fact the word ‘celandine’ comes from the Greek word chelidon meaning ‘swallow’. Its early flowering time also gave the Lesser Celandine the nickname ‘spring messenger’.
  • Despite sharing the name, it isn’t actually related to the greater celandine. Lesser celandine is a member of the buttercup family. Greater celandine is related to the poppy.
  • Wordsworth’s favourite wild flower wasn’t the daffodil – it was lesser celandine. He wrote no less than three poems about it: The Small Celandine, To the Same Flower and To the Small Celandine.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

A sign that spring is on the way! Primrose’s sunny yellow flowers are a common sight across the UK.

The name derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning ‘first rose’ of the year, despite not being a member of the rose family. In different counties of England it is also referred to as Butter Rose, Early Rose, Easter Rose, Golden Rose and Lent Rose.

How to spot it

Pale yellow, green-veined, flowers, 3cm across, borne singly on stalks. Rosette of wrinkled leaves tapering gradually to stalk, each up to 15cm long.

In large populations there is a variation in the colour, texture and size of primrose flowers. Native species can produce flowers in shades ranging from pale cream to deep yellow.

Bizarre forms include an umbellate form in which flowers form a spray on top of a longer stalk similar to a Cowslip, and doubles.

Where it grows

Woodland clearings, hedgebanks, waysides, railway banks and open grassland preferring damp, clayey soils.

A group of Primrose flowers in a woodland verge

Best time to see Primrose

You can find Primrose appearing throughout Spring.

Are Primrose threatened?

Primrose is a native plant in Britain, and its distribution remains stable. Its decline in areas of East Anglia – following a series of hot, dry summers from 1970 onwards – hints at a possible threat posed by climate change.

The main threat is the loss of habitat. Inappropriate management of woodland and waysides can all contribute to a local decline.

A close up of 3 yellow Primrose flower heads

Things you might not know

  • April 19th is ‘Primrose day’. This date is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the primrose was his favourite flower. Queen Victoria supposedly sent him bunches regularly and to this day primroses are laid at his statue by Westminster Abbey on this date every year.
  • A Primrose flower will be red if you plant it upside-down according to one old superstition (we wouldn’t recommend it…).
  • It is the County Flower of Devon.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Gorse

Ulex sp.

A spiny evergreen shrub with yellow flowers.

Few plants make such an impact on the landscape as flowering gorse, through both its colour and scent. The latter is a distinctive coconut and vanilla smell, said to be quite pungent to some individuals, but weak to others.

The cracking of the seed-pods in hot sunshine is said to sound similar to the clacking calls of Stonechats which perch on its sprigs.

Habitat

Banks, heaths and sea-cliffs. Also a signature plant of rough open space and commonland.

Best time to see

Folklore says you should only kiss your beloved when gorse is in flower. The good news is that either common gorse or the closely related western gorse is pretty much in bloom whatever the time of year! In fact, a few yellow flowers can generally be seen even in harsh winter months.

Its peak time, however, is April and May when almost all the plant is covered in bright yellow blossom.

Did you know?

It was voted the County Flower of Belfast.

Before the Industrial Revolution, gorse was valued as a fuel for fires and kilns, as well as baker’s ovens. After crushing the spines (e.g. in cider mills), gorse also made valuable feeding for stock including cattle and horses in wintertime.

Straight stems of gorse make excellent walking-sticks and the flowers can be used to make a Gorse wine. It also makes a convenient anchor for washing, acts as a chimney brush and, when in flower, as a source of colour for Easter eggs. Gorse and heather have been bound together to make besom brooms. Gardeners have been known to lay chopped gorse over emerging peas to deter pigeons and mice.

In order to prevent over-exploitation, there have historically been a wide range of conditions on harvesting, such as in Oxfordshire where people were only allowed as much as they could carry on their backs. In Hertfordshire there were regulations prohibiting cutting outside a certain parish and digging-up entire bushes. In some places even the type and size of cutting implements have been specified.

Three species of Gorse that exist in the UK are Ulex europaeus, Ulex gallii and Ulex minor:

  • Ulex europaeus is also known as Western gorse, Furse, and Whin (originally thought to be a Scandinavian word). Other names for this type of Gorse are Fingers-and-thumbs, French-fuzz and Honey-bottle.
  • Ulex galii, commonly known as Dwarf furze, is also called Bed-furze, Cat-whin and Cornish fuzz. This species belong more to the west and to Ireland and will not tolerate lime in the soil.
  • Ulex minor belongs more to the south-eastern counties, East Anglia and the home counties.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Ivy

Hedera helix

A evergreen woody climbing wild plant, commonly seen on old walls and tree trunks.

Ivy is often found carpeting the ground or growing up walls and trees.

Its flowers bloom in an umbrella-like spread. In fact the term for such a bloom – an ‘umbel’ – derives from the same source as umbrella – umbra, the Latin word for shade.

It’s leaves are dark green glossy above, paler below. On flowering shoots leaves are pointed oval.

Distribution

Widespread throughout the UK.

Habitat

Woods, hedgerows, rocks and walls. Very commonly found on tree trunks.

Best time to see

Flowers September to November.

Did you know?

  • Ivy is, of course, celebrated with holly in the Christmas Carol of the same name. Its symbolism, however, predates Christianity. As evergreen species both holly and ivy were seen as especially powerful during the leafless days of winter. Sprigs were said to ward off evil spirits and inside the home kept the house goblins at bay. Of the two, ivy – shapely and curvaceous – was said to represent the feminine as compared to the spiky, angular masculinity of holly.
  • Local names include Bentwood, Bindwood, Hibbin, Ivin, Ivery and the enchanting Love-Stone used in Leicestershire.
  • In the Highlands and Islands it has been used as protection, to keep evil away from milk, butter and the animals. Circlets of ivy alone, or ivy plaited with Rowan and honeysuckle were hung over the lintels of byres and put under milk vessels.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Fibrous Waxcap

Hygrocybe intermedia 

Orange waxcap with pointed cap in grass

How to identify:

CapBright orange and can be quite large. Conical, flattening with age, umbonate. Texture quite unique, with coarse scales, like wet velvet. The edge is irregular and splits with age. 
Cap diameter 5-11 cm
GillsPale to bright yellow
StemSimilar colour to cap, but sometimes more yellow and white showing. Very fibrous also. 
FleshPale yellow
SporesWhite

 

Where to find them?

The Fibrous Waxcap (Hygrocybe intermedia) is an uncommon to occasional find in most of Britain and Ireland except in some parts of Wales, where it is more frequently recorded. Most often seen in unimproved grassland and, occasionally, in sand-dune systems. 

Did you know?

The bright right orange (with hints of yellow) cap, fades and sometimes blackening with age.

Don’t mistake it with..

The Blackening Waxcap

Other Species

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Tree Lungwort
Tree Lungwort spanning entire branch of ancient tree

Tree Lungwort

Lobaria pulmonaria

Reindeer Moss
Small patch of jagged, white Reindeer Moss amongst bright green plants

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina

Lady’s Bedstraw

Galium verum

‘O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth’ – Chaucer, The Merchant’s Tale”

Also known as ‘yellow bedstraw’, a frothy blossom with a wonderful honey scent.

A very distinctive plant with soft clusters of bright yellow flowers that smell of hay. The leaves are narrow, dark green and in whorls. It often creeps amongst grasses, sending up tall flowering stems in summer.

It is related to the plant cleavers, or ‘Sticky Willy’ Galium aparine.

Distribution

Lady’s bedstraw can be found growing across the UK.

Habitat

Meadows, road verges, cliff tops, hedges, dunes and other grassy places.

Best time to see

In the summer months, when in bloom and producing its scent.

Did you know…

  • Before the advent of the modern mattress, lady’s bedstraw was a popular choice for bedding thanks to its soft and springy quality and pleasant scent (when dried it smells of hay). Also it has an astringent quality which may also have brought it into the bed against fleas.
  • According to one medieval legend, the Virgin Mary Herself gave birth whilst lying on a bed of lady’s bedstraw and bracken. The bracken refused to acknowledge the baby Jesus and in doing so lost its flower. Lady’s bedstraw, however, bloomed in recognition. As it did so its flowers changed from white to gold.
  • The flower also has an association with giving birth in Norse mythology. In the past Scandinavians used lady’s bedstraw as a sedative for women in labour. Frigg, the goddess of married women, was said to help women give birth. As such they called it ‘Frigg’s grass’.
  • Its flowers were also used as an alternative to renin to coagulate milk in cheese production (sadly, the exact method of how this was done have been lost). Additionally, in Gloucestershire, it was used to add colour to Double Gloucester.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum