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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

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

Red Dead-nettle is traditionally known as the ‘bumblebee flower’ in some British counties as bumblebees love it! Other names include ‘sweet archangel’ and ‘bad man’s posies’. Red Dead-nettle is related to the stinging nettle but has no sting – hence the ‘dead’ in ‘dead-nettle’.

How to spot it

Red Dead-nettle has whorls of pink-purple flowers clustered amongst leaves towards the top of the plant. The aromatic leaves are hairy, heart-shaped and have toothed edges. Some leaves near the top of the plant take on a purple tint. This plant can be mistaken for henbit dead-nettle which has similar flowers. They can be differentiated because Red Dead-nettle leaves have short petioles (leaf stalks).

Where to spot it

Found throughout the UK, Red Dead-nettle likes arable and waste land and can also be found in gardens, hedgerows and on roadsides.

Best time to spot it

Red dead-nettle has a long flowering season that can begin in February and last until November.

Things you might not know

  • The generic name is from the Greek lamia meaning ‘devouring monster’. This refers to the helmet shape (galeate) of the flower which has the appearance of open jaws.
  • The vernacular name ‘Archangel’ may refer to their virtue of being non-stinging.
  • It is likely that this plant was introduced to Britain with early agriculture and evidence for it has been found in Bronze Age deposits.
  • The whole plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative and styptic. In terms of traditional medicinal uses, dried leaves have been used as a poultice to stem hemorrhaging whilst fresh bruised leaves have been applied to external wounds and cuts. The leaves are also made into a tea and drunk to promote perspiration and discharge from the kidneys in treating chills.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Shepherd’s Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

The seedpods of this common wildflower resemble little drawstring pouches worn by medieval peasants, spilling out tiny copper-coloured seeds when broken apart

A member of the Cabbage family, this annual plant produces flowers throughout the year, and is able to yield hundreds of seeds.

How to identify Shepherd’s Purse

With a leafy rosette at the base, it grows to about 40cm. The leaves are larger and pinnately lobed at the bottom, and then arrow-shaped with wavy edges along the stem. It has tiny white scentless flowers arranged in a loose raceme, which are replaced by its highly recognisable seedpods.

Where to find Shepherd’s Purse

It is widespread throughout Britain, particularly in waste grounds and cultivated fields.

Did you know?

  • Also known as ‘Mother’s Heart’, this refers to an ancient game played in both England and Germany in which one child asks another to pick one of the seedpods. Upon breaking it, the child is then told they have broken their mother’s heart.
  • Local names include Bad Man’s Oatmeal (Durham); Blindweed (Yorkshire), Lady’s Purses (East Anglia), Poor Man’s Purse (Somerset).
  • It has been used in homeopathy to treat gall bladder and kidney problems.
  • It is considered an antiscorbutic, meaning it prevents scurvy.
  • In China, the leaves are eaten, taste similar to cabbage but with a spicy, peppery flavour.
  • It can be used as a herbal tea and is known for its anti-bleeding properties.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum