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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

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

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

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Shaggy strap lichen
Shaggy Strap Lichen

Shaggy strap lichen

Ramalina farinacea

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

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Fen Orchid

Liparis loeselii

small yellow orchid flowers on a light green stalk

Description

One of our rarer plants, its pretty pale yellow flowers liven up our dunes.

This wild flower is difficult to spot as it is small (around 8cm tall) and inconspicuous. The leaves wrap around the bottom of the single stem which supports several flowers towards the top of the plant.

The orchid is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, a naturally marshy area. Fen orchid needs wet areas with bare sand, short grasses and a lot of calcium in the soil.

The species has declined due to habitat loss as a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland. Plantlife has worked with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to translocate Fen Orchid to restored habitats.

Threats to Fen Orchid

The majority of the Fen Orchid populations were lost through drainage and in the late 20th Century through peat digging and mowing.  Other threats include climate change, inappropriate water and habitat management.

Did you know?

  • Fen orchid is one of the most threatened wild plants in Europe and is listed on Annex II of the Habitats and Species Directive, one of only nine flowering plants in Britain afforded this level of protection.
  • Fen orchids are different from other plants because they don’t usually grow in soil. Instead, they grow on clumps of moss or on sedge tussocks in wet areas called fens. This way of growing is similar to how tropical orchids grow on trees.
  • Two forms of fen orchid are found in Britain. The dune form is now found only in the dunes at Kenfig, while the other occurs only in the fens of East Anglia.
  • The Norfolk Fen Orchid are different to Wales Fen Orchid, because they have more flowers and pointy, oval-shaped leaves instead of round ones like the Welsh plants.

What is Plantlife doing?

After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites and the total population has risen through proper management.

Read more

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

How can you help?

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

Other Species

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Meadow WaxCap
Apricot mushroom with flat top

Meadow WaxCap

Hygrocybe pratensis

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

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Meadow WaxCap
Apricot mushroom with flat top

Meadow WaxCap

Hygrocybe pratensis

South Stack Fleawort

Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima

South Stack Fleawort by the coast

The South Stack Fleawort is found along a small section of the North Wales Coastal Path on Ynys Gybi (Holy Island).

Distribution

Found only between Parth Dafarch and RSPB South Stack Nature Reserve

Habitat

Grassy cliff tops and vegetated gullies

Best time to see

May and early June

yellow bud of flower shooting on a hairy leaves South Stack Fleawort

Did you know…

  • South Stack or Spathulate Fleawort smells sweetly of honey and is pollinated by bumblebees.
  • It is found on just a small region of coastline in North Wales and nowhere else in the world.
  • Recent genetic studies showed that its closest relatives are a small population of Field Fleawort in Bedfordshire but that it is distinct enough from those plants to maintain its status as a separate subspecies.

Plantlife supports a project to understand why this subspecies of Fleawort is only found in this small area of Ynys Gybi and the ecological requirements of the plants.

Other Species

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Tufted Saxifrage

Saxifraga cespitosa

small flowers growing in between rocks

The Tufted Saxifrage population in Wales grows on just a couple of boulders where it is extremely threatened by spring droughts and lack of winter snow cover.

Distribution

Just 2 small boulders at one site in Wales and a number of sites in Scotland.

Habitat

Cliff ledges and boulders on calcium rich rocks in Eryri and the Scottish Highlands

Best time to see

This species flowers from May through to early June however the inaccessibility of its sites makes it a very difficult species to see in the wild.

Tufted saxifrage plant

Did you know…

Tufted Saxifrage was first discovered in the wild in Wales in 1796 but wasn’t seen between the late 1800’s and the 1950’s when it was rediscovered by Evan Roberts (the first warden of Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve).

In the 1970’s its population was bolstered by a conservation reintroduction and it saw a population high in the 1980’s. Since then it has seen a steady decline and the Welsh population of Tufted Saxifrage now (2023) numbers just seven plants in the wild.

Through the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri Project (part of Natur am Byth!) we are successfully cultivating Welsh Tufted Saxifrage plants with a plan to enable them to move higher up the mountains of Eryri to sites where they will see snow for longer in the winter.

Other Species

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Rosy or Irish Saxifrage

Saxifraga rosacea subsp. rosacea

Rosy Saxifrage - Robbie Blackhall-Miles

The Irish Saxifrage was once found in Wales too. Its upright buds and bright white flowers distinguish it clearly from the other ‘mossy’ saxifrages found in the British Isles.

Distribution

Several localities in Ireland and once known from just one locality in Eryri, Wales.

Habitat

Calcium rich rock ledges and crevices.

Best time to see

You can see this species flowering in cultivation at the National Botanic Garden of Wales during May and June

Rosie Saxifrage - Robbie Blackhall-Miles

Did you know?

Rosy Saxifrage is extinct in the wild in Wales. It was last seen in the wild in Wales in the 1960’s.

Richard Roberts discovered a piece of a plant that had been washed down from a cliff whilst he was leading a group on a geology walk. Noticing it was something different he took the piece of plant home and grew it. All the Welsh Rosy Saxifrage material now kept in cultivation came from that small piece of plant. Through the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri Project (part of Natur am Byth!) we plan to reintroduce Rosie Saxifrage to the wild again in Wales.

Other Species

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Spotted Rock-rose

Tuberaria guttata

A spotted rock rose in grass

A flower of the west coast, the largest colonies of Spotted Rock-rose lie on Anglesey’s Holy Island, where it is also the county flower.

Its distinct crimson-spotted flowers are matched by red-flushed leaves.

Distribution

A handful of colonies on Ynys Mon (Anglesey), Ynys Gybi (Holy Island) and the Llyn Peninsula in Wales. The only location it can be found on the British mainland is at the very end of the Llyn Peninsula

Habitat

Dry, rocky places.

Best time to see

Flowers from June to August

A spotted rock rose in grass

Did you know?

To see the spotted rock-rose in full bloom you have to catch it at just the right time. It flowers only once during its lifetime and sheds its vivid petals within hours of doing so.

The county flower of Anglesey (Cor-rosyn rhuddfannog) in Welsh is one of the priority species for the partnership project Natur am Byth!. Plantlife are working with the RSPB, Natural Resources Wales and a range of other organisations and individuals to ensure this species is protected and more fully understood. Through working with the RSPB to undertake a full review and baseline survey of the species in 2022 we now have the data at our fingertips to enable this species’ future conservation.

Other Species

Oak moss
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak moss

Evernia prunastri

Smoky Spindles
Smoky Spindles

Smoky Spindles

Hygrocybe pratensis

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Fanfare of trumpets lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Mouse-ear Hawkweed

Pilosella officinarum

Mouse-ear Hawkweed

This is a lovely little wildflower that spreads to form close-knit mats of leaves in dry, sunny spots.

Each plant has a small rosette of hairy ragged leaves that are dark green above but whitish and hairy underneath. They’re rounded at the tips and not toothed. The flowers are carried on long stems from the centre of these rosettes, up to 30cm tall. Each narrow and tightly packed bloom – one per stem – is like a dandelion but a paler lemon yellow in colour. They are followed by fluffy seed heads.

Distribution

Found throughout the UK, but rarer in north-west Scotland.

Habitat

Grows in dry grassy places like meadows, pastures, verges, lawns, heaths and dunes as well as waste ground.

Best time to see

When in flower, from May to August.

Mouse-ear hawkweed

Did you know?

  • The closely related fox-and-cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) has striking clusters of reddish-orange flowers. A garden escape, it often colonises rough grassland, lawns, verges and churchyards.

Other Species

Big Blue Pinkgill
A chunky blue mushroom laid out on grass

Big Blue Pinkgill

Entoloma bloxamii

Birds-foot Trefoil

Birds-foot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Blackening Waxcap
A dark pointed mushroom with long stem growing in the grass

Blackening Waxcap

Hygrocybe conica