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Also known as “Hardheads” or “Black knapweed”, this wild flower is one of our toughest meadow plants.
Knapweed is a firm favourite of our pollinating insects, being a source of good quality nectar. And as well as supporting our bee, butterflies and beetles its seeds provide food for many birds.
Somewhat thistle-like, common knapweed can be identified by its slightly spherical black/brown flower head, growing alone, topped with purple, pink or (more rarely) white. The bracts are triangular in shape. Its leaves are linear to lance-like in shape with incomplete lobes.
Greater knapweed – a close relation – is similar but its flowers are more garish and opulent and its leaves are fully lobed.
Found throughout Britain.
Knapweed is a wild flower of meadows and other grassland habitats from lawns to cliff-tops. It can often be seen on road verges where wildlife is allowed to thrive and also in hedges.
In flower, June to September.
‘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.
Lady’s bedstraw can be found growing across the UK.
Meadows, road verges, cliff tops, hedges, dunes and other grassy places.
In the summer months, when in bloom and producing its scent.
‘How in bloom they will resemble Moths, the gloss of mirrors, Christmas Stars, their helmets blushing Red-brown when they marry’ – Medbh McGuckian, ‘The Orchid House’
Flowers in dense spike, white, pink or pale purple, with darker streak and loop markings. Pointed leaves with round purple blotches.
It is often confused with the Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). Common Spotted-orchid has broader leaves with wider blotches and flowers with a more deeply lobed lip.
It is more common in northern and western Britain. It is very plentiful along peaty roadsides in parts of Scotland.
It grows in damp places in marshes, bogs, and acid grassland. It prefers sunny places on lowlands or hills. Whilst it can be found in slightly damp meadows, it is also found in the undergrowth of dry forests, at the edges of streams and in areas with bushes. It grows on siliceous and calcareous substrate.
When in flower, from June to August
The genus name Dactylorhiza is formed from the Greek words “daktylos” meaning “finger” and “rhiza” meaning “root”, referring to the tubers of this plant, that are split into several tubercles. The specific Latin name maculata meaning spotted refers to the stained leaves.
It is also known as the Moorland Spotted Orchid.
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.
Found throughout the UK, but rarer in north-west Scotland.
Grows in dry grassy places like meadows, pastures, verges, lawns, heaths and dunes as well as waste ground.
When in flower, from May to August.
Mouse-ear Hawkweed at Brockles Field
Often found in parks, banks and lawns – any type of grassland habitat – White Clover is the commonest of the clovers.
The White Clover flowerheads are ball-shaped cluster on a long stem, made up of tiny individual white and sometimes very pale pink flowers. The leaves have the archetypal ‘cloverleaf’ shape: three rounded leaflets often with a pale band.
Common across the UK.
Almost any grassy habitat.
Flowers from June to September.
White Clover lawn, image by Archie Thomas
White Clover, image by Trevor Dines
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.
Found throughout the UK.
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.
When in flower, from April to late summer.
Very common. Found on grassy areas across the UK.
‘The daisy is a happy flower, And comes at early spring, And brings with it the sunny hour, When bees are on the wing.’ – John Clare, “The Daisy”
A common sight across the UK, daisies are a delightful sign that spring has arrived and summer is on its way.
Each flower has a rosette of small, thin white petals surrounding a bright yellow centre. These are supported by a single stem which grows from a group of dark green rounded leaves. The petals can sometimes be tinged with pink.
Short grassland and meadows.
Daisies in a clump
Common Daisy, image by Trevor Dines
This is a low-creeping, perennial plant with clusters of deep, yellow flowers tinged with red. The leaves have five narrow oval leaflets and the lower two of these are bent back by the stem so that the leaves appear trefoil (3-lobed).
Although disagreeable to humans, bird’s-foot trefoil is an important source of food for other creatures. Pollinating insects find it a perfect source of nectar and it is used as a forage plant for livestock. The ‘bird’s-foot’ of its name refers to the shape of its seed pods.
This is one of our most common meadow wild flowers and is found throughout the UK. It grows in meadows, roadsides and other grassland areas.
This wild flower is common through out the UK.
A meadow full of Birds-foot Trefoil
Birds-foot trefoil, image by Gavin Duley
Its small leaves are triangular in shape and deeply toothed.
The beautiful bright blue flowers – which can be a centimetre across and have a white eye – are carried on small spikes in the axils of the leaves. Note that if the flowers are not on spikes but each one comes directly from the leaf axils then you might be looking at slender speedwell, Veronica filiformis instead.
Found throughout the UK, but rare on the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
Generally grows in grassy places like meadows, pastures, verges and lawns, as well as in woods, hedgerows and waste ground.
When in flower, from March to July.
Like other speedwells found in the wild, it was believed that Germander speedwell was good luck for travellers, and wearing it in your buttonhole would “speed you well” on your journey.
Image by Matt Prosser
Image by Andrew Gagg
The classic colour is magenta however occasionally white and pale pink flower spikes can be found. The leaves are are shiny with dark purple blotches. When first in bloom it has a wonderful scent, not dissimilar to Lily-of-the-valley tinged with blackcurrant but as the flowers fade, it starts to reek! As its name suggests, this is one of the first orchids to bloom, only the Early Spider-orchid flowers earlier.
It adapts to a variety of habitats and can be found in hay meadows, woodland and often on roadside verges. It occurs mostly on non-acidic soils, and is also found in ancient woodland (especially coppice), chalk downland, grassy banks, limestone pavements and cliff-top grassland. It is widely distributed across the UK and Ireland.
The Early Purple Orchid was once a common plant, found in a variety of habitats. Sadly, these have also been places where urban development and modern farming methods have taken their toll. Although it is still found at sites throughout the UK it is by no means as abundant as it once was.
Early Purple Orchid, image by Beth Halski
Early Purple Orchid rosettes at Ranscombe
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