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Field Pansy is a delicate flower from the Violet family, and is the wild relative of the Garden Pansy. It’s a small low-growing perennial which can be easily confused with the Wild Pansy, however it has much smaller flowers. It is self-fertile and attracts butterflies such as the Queen of Spain Fritillary which will lay its eggs on the plant.

How to spot it

The flowers of Field Pansy are solitary and 15mm across. They have creamy yellow petals which are sometimes bluish-violet. Its sepals are pointed, and often longer than or the same length as the petals. Its stipules look like lobed leaves, and the leaves are oblong in shape. The plant grows up to 20cm tall.

Where to spot it

While Field Pansy can be found throughout the UK, it is more common in the East half of the UK and SE Ireland. It’s most commonly found in dry arable field margins and waste spaces.

Things you might not know

  • Pansies take their name from the French ‘pensee’ meaning thought.
  • Field Pansy’s flowers are edible and the leaves and flowers are rich in vitamins A and C.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ragged Robin

Silene flos-cuculi

How to spot it

The petals of Ragged Robin are deep pink or white, with each divided into four narrow lobes. Its leaves are narrow and rough to touch.

Where it grows

Ragged Robin’s dishevelled beauty is a common site in damp meadows. It also grows in wetter woodland.

How’s it doing?

Many counties have recorded a local decline in Ragged Robin numbers, mainly from habitat loss to agriculture. However, overall, it is still considered of least concern.

Things you might not know

  • Ragged Robin is dedicated to St. Barnabas. Why? Hay-making took place around his Feast Day (11th June) and this bright pink flower would been found amongst the hay.
  • In Shakespeare’s time it was known as Crowflower and is one of the flowers in Ophelia’s “garland”.
  • In the the Victorian “Language of Flowers” it symbolises ardour, aversion, and wit.
  • It is particularly attractive to long-tongued bees.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

How to spot it

Red Campion is a splash of pink commonly found on roadside verges in late spring and summer as the bluebells begin to fade. It is closely related to the rarer White Campion. Its deep pink flowers are 20mm across with notched petals on a softly hairy plant up to 1m tall. Opposite, it has oval, softly hairy leaves with hairy stems.

Where to spot it

You can find Red Campion in lowland, shady sites, woods, hedge banks, scree and cliffs. It is a common sight along rural roadside verges.

Things you might not know

  • In the Language of Flowers Red Campion symbolises gentleness.
  • The first part of Red Campion’s scientific name – Silene – comes from the Greek woodland God Silenus. He is often depicted as drunk and was the tutor of the God of Wine, Dionysus. Why? Silenus was often covered in sticky foam (his name comes from sialon, the Greek word for “saliva”). Female Red Campion flowers also produce a froth that helps catch pollen from visiting insects.
  • Red Campion is also known as Bachelors’ buttons which suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young, unmarried men. Other local names include Johnny Woods, Ragged Jack and Scalded Apples.
  • The flowers of Red Campion open during daylight to attract the butterflies and bees.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

White Campion is a common wildflower of grassland and waste ground. Its cheerful white flowers can be seen from spring to autumn.

How to spot it

The clear white flowers of the White Campion have five petals, each deeply notched and almost divided into two and its opposite, oval leaves and stems are hairy. In places where it grows with Red Campion, the two may hybridise to produce pinky white blooms.

Where to spot it

White Campion grows on waste ground, disturbed roadside verges, hedgerows and well-drained arable field margins. It is in flower from May to October. It’s common throughout the British Isles, but has declined slightly at the western edge of its range.

Things you might not know

  • At night the blooms produce a clovey scent, attracting many feeding moths.
  • White campion was one of the ingredients in 16th Century Elizabethan pot pourri.
  • The root has been used as a soap substitute for washing clothes, hair etc.
  • It is thought to have been introduced to the country by neolithic farmers and remains of it have been found on neolithic and bronze age sites.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Bladder Campion

Silene vulgaris

This pretty flower is named after the inflated bladder-like sac behind the petals. Growing between 60cm and 1m tall this white wildflower is also known as ‘Maidens Tears’, ‘Cowbell’, and ‘Common Bladder Catchfly’ even though it doesn’t technically catch flies!

How to spot it

Bladder Campion is a perennial wildflower with a green bladder-like calyx with purple veins make it easily identifiable. The ragged looking white flowers, which grow at the end of the bladder, have five two-lobed petals and are roughly 2cm wide with long protruding stamens. It is said they have an aroma similar to that of cloves. Many flower heads can be found on one medium height plant. Its stalkless bluish-green leaves are long and thin on mature plants.

Where to spot it

It is fairly common in Britain, but is mostly found in the south of England in meadows and fields, and along roadside verges, dry banks, and hedgerows.

Things you might not know

  • The young leaves are sometimes added to salads in the Mediterranean where it grows much more abundantly.
  • During the summer months, Bladder Campion can often found covered in ‘Cuckoo Spit’ as this is a favourite food-plant of the Froghopper. The early English botanist John Gerard called it ‘Spatling Poppie’ for this very reason.
  • In Roman mythology the Goddess Minerva turned the young boy Campion into this plant after he fell asleep instead of catching flies for her owls. The bladder represents the bag he should have filled.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Fritillary

Fritillaria meleagris

Months

Season

Colour

How to spot it

Serpentine and glamorous, Fritillary is a dark purple (and sometimes white) wildflower is also known as the “Snake’s-head”.

Where to spot it

Fritillary grows in wet meadows, particularly traditional hay meadows that often flood in winter months. Some of the best-known Fritillary fields are in Oxfordshire, along the flood-meadows of the Thames including Magdalen Meadow in the heart of the university city.

How’s it doing?

Once thousands of Fritillary filled flooded hay meadows across middle and southern England. However, modern agricultural practices – particularly draining land in order to grow crops – has led to a sharp decline.

Things you might not know

  • Fritillary is the County Flower of Oxfordshire.
  • In the Language of Flowers it symbolises persecution.
  • Fritillaries were only officially recorded growing in the wild in 1736, so there is some debate as to whether they are native or not. It may be that they spread from foreign plants in the Tudor or Jacobean garden. It is therefore worth scrutinizing the neighbourhood of Fritillary fields for evidence of large gardens at some time in the past.
  • The names show how the Frillary has suggested blood, death, snakes and sorrow. Besides Snake’s head Fritillary, other evocative names are Bloody warrior, Doleful bells of sorrow, Drooping tulip, Five-leaved grass, Guinea-hen flower, Toad’s head, Turkey’s eggs and Weeping widow.
  • Fritillaries are fertilised by bumble-bees.
  • These snaky beauties are in fact poisonous containing an alkaloid called Imperialine.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Lizard Orchid

Himantoglossum hircinum

Lizard Orchid is usually rare in the UK but in the right location it can be found in great numbers. It grows up to a metre in height but can nonetheless be difficult to spot when growing in long grass on roadside verges.

How to spot it

The long, tail-like lip is usually spiralled and dotted with pink or purple in the centre. Lizard Orchid’s flowers have a rather foul smell, said to be similar to the smell of goats.

How is it distributed?

The largest British population of the Lizard Orchid is amongst the golf links and sand dunes at Sandwich Bay in Kent, where there are reportedly many hundred plants. A large population can be found in East Anglia, along the stretch of the Devil’s Dyke that runs through Newmarket Racecourse.

Where to spot it

Lizard Orchid grows on calcareous soils and likes sunny positions on the edges of open woodland and on roadside verges. This orchid also grows in dry meadows, rocky areas, and open woods.

Things you might not know

  • The scientific name (Himantoglossum) derives from the Greek for ‘strap-tongue’ Hircinum is Latin for ‘goat-like’, and refers to the strong, foul smell of the flowers.
  • In most European languages it is known as ‘(Billy or male) goat orchid’.
  • The Lizard Orchid is pollinated by insects particularly bees.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Strawberry (wild)

Fragaria vesca

Before the advent of the familiar garden strawberry Fragaria x ananassa (actually a hybrid created from two American species) our ancestors enjoyed our wild, native variety of Strawberry.

How to spot it

Strawberry (wild) is common across the UK but rarer in north Scotland. It thrives in a variety of environments from roadsides to hill slopes to forest clearings. White flowers appear in spring followed by the recognisable red fruit in the summer.

Things you might not know

  • The origin of the name “Strawberry” is a bit of a mystery. While it likely derives from the Old English streawberige – meaning, quite literally, “the berry associated with straw” – quite what this association is remains open to conjecture. The plant doesn’t particularly grow amongst straw nor does it bear much of a physical resemblance.
  • In Richard III, Shakespeare writes: “When I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you send for some of them”. It is thought that he is certainly talking about our native, wild strawberries.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Forget-me-not (Common)

Myosotis arvensis

Our most common Forget-me-not is often found as a “weed” of arable land. It is also known as Field Forget-me-not. It is a greyish coloured plant, its very small, bright blue flowers (sometimes interspersed with pink) occur in spikes. The leaves are oval and hairy, the ones at the base forming a rosette.

Where to spot it

Forget-me-not (Common) can be found on cultivated land, roadsides, waste ground and dunes. It flowers from April to September.

How’s it doing?

Found throughout Britain and Ireland, it is more common in areas where land is put to arable use. Despite changes in agricultural practice, distribution of has remained stable since 1900, probably due partly to its flexible life history and seed longevity.

Things you might not know

  • In the Language of Flowers Forget-me-not stands for true love and memories.
  • Its Latin name arvensis means ‘of or growing in cultivated fields or land’.
  • Forget-me-nots used to be known as ‘scorpion-grass’. The current name only appeared in the early 19th century. The name Scorpion-grass arose because the flower clusters are more or less bent over or coiled. Other common names include Bird’s eye, Robin’s eye, Mammy-flooer, Snake-grass and Love-me. The latter is related to the fact that the plant was a symbol of love, and if you wore it you were not forgotten by your lover.
  • Their seeds form in small pods along the stem and attach to clothing when brushed against, eventually falling off, allowing the small seed within to germinate elsewhere.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Basil Thyme

Clinopodium acinos

Basil Thyme used to be picked as a substitute for thyme, but it is now too rare to pick. Its distribution closely follows that of underlying chalk and limestone rock.

How to spot it

Like other members of the dead-nettle family, Basil Thyme is popular with bees and insects. At only 15 cm high, it produces whorls of violet flowers with white markings on the lower lip. Common Calamint and Wild Basil are closely related but are larger and with taller more dense flower spikes.

Where to spot it

Basil Thyme grows mainly in southern and eastern England and is very rare in Wales, Scotland and northeast England. It is also present in eastern Ireland where is it considered an alien species. It grows in open habitats in dry grassland, especially around rock outcrops and also in arable fields, where it is now rare. It can be found in quarries and waste ground where calcareous rocks and lime-rich soil has been exposed and roads and railways where lime has been applied. In Ireland, Basil Thyme grows on sandy and gravelly soils.

How’s it doing?

Basil Thyme is unfortunately in decline because of more efficient methods of weed control almost causing its complete extinction in arable habitat. Basil Thyme is only present on less intensively used arable land and in chalk and limestone grassland. Threats to grassland populations include the lack of bare ground which is required by this species to aid seed germination. In Ireland, sand and gravel extraction are the main causes of decline.

It is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ and is included as a species “of principal importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity” under Sections 41 (England) and 42 (Wales) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Basil Thyme is also noted on the Scottish biodiversity list of species of principal importance for biodiversity conservation in The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum