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How to spot it

Bramble is a rambling plant with delicate white or pink flowers which are followed later in the year by juicy blackberries. The stems have prickles and the leaves are hairy. Come autumn, its fruit is a widely recognised sight, turning from red to the near-black that gives them their name. Going ‘blackberrying’ is still a common practice today and one of the few acts of foraging to survive into the modern age. Bramble usually flowers in July and August, although its blossom has been known to appear in June. If it’s blackberries you’re after, they are usually adorning the branches in early autumn.

Where to spot it

Throughout Britain, Bramble can be found in multiple habitats, including hedge banks, scrubland, woodland and waste ground.

How’s it doing?

As gardeners and walkers can testify, Bramble is doing well!

Things you might not know

  • People in the UK have been snacking on blackberries for generations – so long, in fact, that their seeds were found in the belly of a Neolithic man uncovered by archaeologists at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.
  • In Britain over 400 microspecies have been recognised, each one differing slightly in fruiting time, size, texture and taste. In some varieties you can detect subtle hints of plum, grape, apple or lemon.
  • Bramble bushes were once planted on graves to deter grazing sheep and cover less slightly weeds, but also probably for magical and ancient hopes of keeping the Devil out and the dead in.

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

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

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Butterbur

Petasites hybridus

Butterbur on background of rocks and dirt

Fond of moist ground, Butterbur is a pink, tassled wildflower can often be found carpeting riversides and damp ditches.

With so many small flowers packed densely together, Butterbur is very popular with bees. It is a great source of nectar early in the year, when wildflowers are still rather sparse.

How to spot it

Flower spikes appear before the leaves and have tiny pale pink flowers arranged down stems which are 10-40cm tall. The leaves are very large, sometimes almost 1 meter wide and are downy-grey underneath.

Bright pink-purple Butterbur in focus on blurred background

Where to spot it

Butterbur is found throughout the UK, but is rarer in central and northern Scotland. It inhabits wet meadows, streamsides, roadside ditches and copses.

Best time to spot it

The best time to see Butterbur is in spring, throughout March, April and May.

Things you might not know

  • Butterbur’s common name derives from its large, heart-shaped leaves that were used to wrap butter in the past.
  • Its scientific name is derived from the Greek petasos, meaning a ‘broad-brimmed felt hat’ which also refers to the enormous leaves.
  • Butterbur spreads by rhizomes and large colonies of male or female plants are common.

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.

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum