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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

Sweet Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

How to spot it

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is a pretty plant with small, bright yellow buttercup-like flowers. The leaves are pointed oval, quite unlike ordinary buttercup leaves. When submerged, the pale greenish-yellow leaves float to the surface like small water-lily leaves.

Where to spot it

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort can be found in wet or marshy places, often round the edges of field ponds. It prospers at the edge of cattle ponds in the churned-up mud. It’s a sensitive plant, requiring low competition, low water levels in summer, and plenty of rain in early winter.

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is now found at only two sites in Gloucestershire, having previously grown in several parts of southern England. With human intervention, a sizeable population of plants flower and fruit every year.

How’s it doing?

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is classified as Vulnerable and protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, perhaps unsurprising given its exceedingly picky requirements.

It is mainly threatened by loss of grazing on pastures and commons, loss of muddy ponds, or overgrazing and excessive trampling too early in the year. Climate change with drier winters also causes drying out of small ponds. Without a mild, frost-free Autumn and enough rain to keep the ground moist for seedlings to develop, they can be uprooted by birds or killed by trampling livestock.

Things you might not know

  • The Latin name Ranunculus means ‘froglike’, referring to the plant’s preference for aquatic habitats.
  • The specific part of the scientific name, ophioglossifolius refers to the shape of the leaves that resemble the small fern Ophioglossum.
  • Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is at the northern edge of its range in Britain.
  • The two sites where it can be found in Gloucestershire are Badgeworth (hence its alternative name: the Badgeworth Buttercup) and Inglestone Common.

Other Species

Sweet Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass

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

Sweet Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass

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

Sweet Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass

Cottongrass (Common)

Eriophorum angustifolium

Cottongrass (Common) is the county flower of Manchester. Its white plumes are a familiar sight in wet hollows on the moors above the city. They are an emblem both of their boggy habitat and of the wide open spaces.

How to spot it

Cottongrass (Common) has a fluffy, cotton-like flower and seed heads which give this distinctive plant its name. Cottongrass is a member of the sedge family and so not technically a grass at all. It thrives in the harshest of environments where it can take advantage of the lack of competition. After fertilisation in early summer, the small, unremarkable green and brown flowers develop distinctive white seed-heads that resemble tufts of cotton. Combined with its ecological suitability to bogs, these characteristics give rise to the plant’s alternative name, Bog Cotton.

Where to spot it

It is common in bogs throughout the UK and Ireland. Cottongrass (Common) likes open, wet, peaty ground and so is likely to indicate areas best avoided when out for a walk.

Things you might not know

  • The fluffy white fronds of Cottongrass were once used as a feather substitute in pillow stuffing in Suffolk and Sussex. Experiments have been done to see if a usable thread can be derived from the seed-plumes. However, the fibres are too short and brittle.
  • It has been used in the production of candle wicks and paper in Germany. In Scotland, Cottongrass was used to dress wounds during First World War.
  • Cottongrass seeds and stems are edible and are used in traditional Native American cuisine by Alaska natives, Inupiat people and Inuit. The roots and leaves are also edible and, owing to their astringent properties, are used by the Yupik peoples for medicinal purposes. Through a process of infusion, decoction and poultice they are used to treat aliments of the gastrointestinal tract and in the Old World for the treatment of diarrhoea.

Other Species

Sweet Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass

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 Vernal Grass
A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass

Sweet Vernal Grass

Rough Meadow Grass
Rough Meadow Grass in the field

Rough Meadow Grass

Perennial Rye Grass
Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

Perennial Rye Grass