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How to spot it

Bramble is a rambling plant with delicate white or pink flowers which are followed later in the year by juicy blackberries. The stems have prickles and the leaves are hairy. Come autumn, its fruit is a widely recognised sight, turning from red to the near-black that gives them their name. Going ‘blackberrying’ is still a common practice today and one of the few acts of foraging to survive into the modern age. Bramble usually flowers in July and August, although its blossom has been known to appear in June. If it’s blackberries you’re after, they are usually adorning the branches in early autumn.

Where to spot it

Throughout Britain, Bramble can be found in multiple habitats, including hedge banks, scrubland, woodland and waste ground.

How’s it doing?

As gardeners and walkers can testify, Bramble is doing well!

Things you might not know

  • People in the UK have been snacking on blackberries for generations – so long, in fact, that their seeds were found in the belly of a Neolithic man uncovered by archaeologists at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.
  • In Britain over 400 microspecies have been recognised, each one differing slightly in fruiting time, size, texture and taste. In some varieties you can detect subtle hints of plum, grape, apple or lemon.
  • Bramble bushes were once planted on graves to deter grazing sheep and cover less slightly weeds, but also probably for magical and ancient hopes of keeping the Devil out and the dead in.

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

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

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

Colt’s-foot

Tussilago farfara

Colt's-foot flower with yellow petals, each with orange markings at the tip

Colt’s-foot is a bright, yellow daisy and is one of the first wild flowers to emerge in Spring.

The single flowers are held on scaly, crimson stems. As these start to die back, flat-fans of dark green leaves appear. These leaves are silver-white on their undersides.

Three orange-yellow Colt's-foot flowers

Where to spot it

Colt’s-foot grows in a range of habitats with open or disturbed ground, including arable land, waste land, shingle and scree, and even landslips. It grows particularly well in waste, rough and cultivated places where there is poor drainage.

Best time to spot it

Colt’s-foot is one of the early arrivals of spring. The best time to see it is throughout March and April.

Several Colt's-foot flowers, some fully in bloom and others closed or wilted

Things you might not know

  • Historically, Colt’s-foot has been used as a remedy for coughs and colds and Colt’s-foot preparations have long been used to soothe sore throats. In fact, it is sometimes called ‘Coughwort’.
  • Other vernacular names for Colt’s-foot include Disherlagie, Dishylaggie, Tushies and Cleats. The Scottish ‘Tushylucky’ and its variants come from the Latin tussilago, related to tussis, a cough.
  • Colt’s-foot also goes by another common name: Baccy plant. This is because it is considered a good substitute for tobacco!
  • The dry felt on the leaves of Colt’s-foot smoulder well and so it has also been used as tinder.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Fingered Speedwell is a low-growing, hairy plant with deep blue flowers.

How to spot it

Fingered Speedwell has leaves that rarely grow longer than a centimetre and are deeply divided into parallel-fingered lobes. Its upper leaves are stalkless, whereas the lower leaves have short stalks. Its flowers are borne at the tip of the stem amongst leaf-like structures called bracts.

Where to spot it

Fingered Speedwell is restricted to just a few sites in East Anglia (Breckland) and Yorkshire. Generally an arable species, it is typically found in the margins of fields sown with winter cereals and also on fallow land or waste places. It has also been recorded in tracks, gravel pits, sand banks and disturbed parched grassland. It favours sandy calcareous or slightly acidic soils.

Single Fingered Speedwell flower among its bracts, surrounded by parallel-fingered lobes.

How’s it doing?

Fingered Speedwell is classified as ‘Endangered’ and is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. It is protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This makes it an offence to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy any plants. The species is also listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

What is the cause of its decline?

The main causes of the decline of Fingered Speedwell are a direct result of the intensification of arable farming. Key factors include the introduction of broad-spectrum herbicides and the high increase in nitrogen fertiliser used on modern crop systems. Several sites have also been lost to development.

A sign that spring is on the way! Primrose’s sunny yellow flowers are a common sight across the UK.

The name derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning ‘first rose’ of the year, despite not being a member of the rose family. In different counties of England it is also referred to as Butter Rose, Early Rose, Easter Rose, Golden Rose and Lent Rose.

How to spot it

Pale yellow, green-veined, flowers, 3cm across, borne singly on stalks. Rosette of wrinkled leaves tapering gradually to stalk, each up to 15cm long.

In large populations there is a variation in the colour, texture and size of primrose flowers. Native species can produce flowers in shades ranging from pale cream to deep yellow.

Bizarre forms include an umbellate form in which flowers form a spray on top of a longer stalk similar to a Cowslip, and doubles.

Where it grows

Woodland clearings, hedgebanks, waysides, railway banks and open grassland preferring damp, clayey soils.

A group of Primrose flowers in a woodland verge

Best time to see Primrose

You can find Primrose appearing throughout Spring.

Are Primrose threatened?

Primrose is a native plant in Britain, and its distribution remains stable. Its decline in areas of East Anglia – following a series of hot, dry summers from 1970 onwards – hints at a possible threat posed by climate change.

The main threat is the loss of habitat. Inappropriate management of woodland and waysides can all contribute to a local decline.

A close up of 3 yellow Primrose flower heads

Things you might not know

  • April 19th is ‘Primrose day’. This date is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the primrose was his favourite flower. Queen Victoria supposedly sent him bunches regularly and to this day primroses are laid at his statue by Westminster Abbey on this date every year.
  • A Primrose flower will be red if you plant it upside-down according to one old superstition (we wouldn’t recommend it…).
  • It is the County Flower of Devon.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum