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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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

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

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort

Adder's Tongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

Alexanders

Alexanders

Smyrnium olusatrum

Basil Thyme

Basil Thyme

Clinopodium acinos

Common Mouse-ear

Cerastium fontanum

Although this little perennial wildflower is incredibly common and abundant throughout Britain, it’s often overlooked as its flowers are rather small and inconspicuous.

It grows as a small tuft or matt with stems that are sometimes reddish in colour. These carry little hairy leaves in pairs, which give the plant its common name of mouse-ear. The stems rise up at their tips and carry a few white flowers at their tips. Each of these is 3-12 mm across and formed from five petals that are deeply notched at their tips, giving them a starry appearance. Often, only one or two flowers are open at a time.

Distribution

Found throughout the UK.

Habitat

A very wide range of grassy and disturbed habitats including meadows, pastures, verges, dunes and mountain grassland. Also in wetter places fens and mires and also on heathland. Survives mowing and therefore common lawns.

Best time to see

When in flower, from April to late summer.

Distribution

Very common. Found on grassy areas across the UK.

Did you know?

  • The seed of this flower is very long-lived, surviving buried in the soil seed bank for up to 40 years. They germinate when they’re brought to the surface again by digging or disturbance.
  • This species is not covered in glandular hairs (sticky blobs on the end of hairs) like the similar plant Sticky Mouse-ear.

Other Species

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort

Adder's Tongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

Alexanders

Alexanders

Smyrnium olusatrum

Basil Thyme

Basil Thyme

Clinopodium acinos

Harebell

Campanula rotundifolia

Purple Harebell flowers in a grass field

With its papery petals and delicate appearance, you might think the Harebell a rather fragile wild flower.

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.

How to spot it

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).

Where it grows

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.

Best time to see

July to September.

Cultural info

  • It is the County Flower of Dumfriesshire, Yorkshire and County Antrim.
  • In the Language of Flowers it stands for childhood, grief, humility, and submission.

How’s it doing?

Generally stable although there have been some local declines at the edges of its range.

Purple Harebell flowers in a blue sky

3 things you may not know

  • The harebell is called the bluebell of Scotland (although a different species to the bluebell more famous south of the border). It is also known as the “cuckoo’s shoe”, “witch bells” or “old man’s bell” – the ‘old man’ being the devil himself.
  • Dreaming about harebells is said to symbolise true love.
  • In County Antrim it is a fairy plant, mearacan puca, the goblin’s (or Puck’s) thimble. Pick it at your peril.
Bluebell
Bluebell close-up.

Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bugle
A close up of a blue bugle plant.

Bugle

Ajuga reptans

Cowslip
Cowslip Close Up.

Cowslip

Primula Veris