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Sweet Vernal Grass

Anthoxanthum oderatum

A close up photograph of Sweet Vernal Grass
Sweet Vernal Grass in the sunshine

How to spot

Thin, wiry grass with short leaves and a spike of flowers at the top of the stem. Where the leaf meets the stem, there is a fringe of hairs which look like eyelashes.

Where to spot

On old meadows and grasslands that are often rich in wild flowers. Here, it’s one of the first meadow grasses to come into flower in the spring.

Don’t mistake it with

Red Fescue – another grass with a narrow stem and pointy flower spikes, but which is bigger and lacks the scent.

Sweet Vernal grass

Things you might not know

It gives out a scent that is THE distinctive smell of a hay meadow – somewhere between vanilla and almond. Some people like to chew the grass to get the taste of the scent.

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

Rough Meadow Grass

Poa trivialis

Rough Meadow Grass in the field
Rough Meadow Grass at Allimore Green

How to spot it

At first glance, this looks like a typical grass. Quite tall, with its flat flowers hanging from the ends of short stalks, arranged along the stem like a Christmas tree. But rub your fingers along the fresh stem and you’ll notice it is slightly rough. Pull the leaf away from the stem a little bit and you’ll see a membrane-like triangle – known as a ligule, this is distinctly long and pointy on Rough Meadow Grass.

Where to spot it

Rough Meadow Grass not only grows in all kinds of grassland, but also in marshes, ditches, wastelands and woodland glades. It’s also found on lawns but struggles to survive if mown regularly.

Don’t mistake it with

Smooth Meadow Grass looks very similar but lacks the roughness of the stem, and its ligule, that membrane at the junction of the stem and leaf, is not pointy in shape.

Things you might not know

Just one plant of Rough Meadow Grass can produce up to 29,000 seeds, providing food for worms and ground beetles.

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

Perennial Rye Grass

Lolium perenne

Perennial Rye grass pictured at Cannon Hill Park

How To Spot

Its glossy dark green leaves shimmer as they waft in a breeze. Closer up, their spikey flowers cling close to the stem, barely overlapping. The stem turns a lovely burgundy red colour near the base of the stem.

For those with a keen eye, the leaves clasp around the stem with what look like a pair of hooked claws, known as an auricle.

Where to spot

Widespread across the UK, it’s particularly abundant in parklands, sports fields and freshly laid lawns. It is also the most commercially sown grass on farmland, cut a few times a year to provide winter food for cattle and sheep.

Don’t mistake it with

Couch Grass has spikey flowers that also cling close to the stem, but unlike Rye Grass, these overlap. Its leaves are grey-green and rather rough rather than the smooth feeling, dark and glossy leaves of Rye Grass.

Things you might not know

As Rye Grass grows fast and is eagerly eaten by livestock, it was the first grass in Britain to be sown commercially on farmland, probably more than 400 years ago. Modern varieties are bred to be able to tolerate trampling, mowing and heavy grazing.

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

Yorkshire Fog

Holcus lanatus

Close up of Yorkshire-fog
Dense Yorkshire Fog in a meadow

How To Spot

This is easy! It has a soft, tall, hairy stems – just run your fingers along it. No other grass feels like this. The bottom of its stem looks like pink stripey pyjamas – no other grass looks like this. There are pink flushes too in its long flower head which look beautiful when swaying in the wind.

Where to spot

The most widespread of all grasses in the UK, it’s found on all kinds of grasslands, from meadows to wastelands.  On lawns, it flowers a little bit later than other grasses during No Mow May.

Don’t mistake it with

Creeping soft-grass – its nearest relative is only hairy on its nodes, the lumpy bits along the stem that look like knees.

Yorkshire Fog pictured in the sunshine

Things you might not know

It can be a dominating grass as it produces huge amounts of seed which can germinate almost immediately, and buried seed remains viable for many years.

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

Cock’s-foot Grass

Dactylis glomerata

Close-up photos of Cock's-foot grass
Cock's-foot pictured at Cannon Hill Park

How To Spot

It’s one of the bigger lawn grasses which can grow over 1m. Its most distinguishing feature is its flattened lower stems which you can feel with your fingers as easily as you can see. Forming dense tussocks, it also has distinctive heavy-looking flower heads.

Where to spot

It’s found across the UK in all kinds of places but it’s most commonly found in meadows and roadsides. On lawns, it often grows on the lesser mown edges.

Don’t mistake it with

False oat grass – another tall, bulky grass which flowers slightly later.

Cock's-foot pictured at Pebble Mill

Things you might not know

Cock’s-foot grass is a surprisingly good plant for wildlife.

  • Honey bees gorge on its pollen
  • Caterpillars eat its leaves
  • Finches feed on its seed
  • Its tussocks provide safe places for nesting mammals and bees

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garlic Mustard

Alliaria petiolata

Also known as Hedge Garlic or Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic Mustard appears in hedgerows and open woodland in early Spring.

How to spot it

Garlic Mustard sometimes grows to over a metre tall and has leaves that are broadly heart shaped, stalked, with numerous broad teeth, and clusters of small white cross-shaped flowers. The whole plant smells of garlic when crushed.

Where to spot it

It can be found in shady areas of hedgerows and waste places, and open woodland, mostly on fertile moist soils. It flowers from April to June throughout the UK, but is particularly common in England and Wales.

How’s it doing?

Garlic Mustard is still very common throughout the UK and is therefore of least concern.

Things you might not know

  • The seeds of Garlic Mustard have been taken like snuff to cause sneezing.
  • Garlic Mustard is a food source for the caterpillars of the orange tip butterfly.
  • Country people at one time used the plant in sauces, with bread and butter, salted meat and with lettuce in salads. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was used as a flavouring in sauces for fish and lamb.

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