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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

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

Summer Snowflake

Leucojum aestivum

How to spot it

Summer Snowflake has dainty bell-shaped flowers which are white in colour.

Where to spot it

It flourishes in boggy areas, as well as in riverside marshes and wet open woodland. Despite its common name it actually flowers from April to May.

Things you might not know

  • Summer Snowflake is the county flower of Berkshire.
  • It grows beside the River Loddon in Berkshire, where its local name is the Loddon lily.

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

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

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

Branched Bur-reed

Sparganium erectum

How to spot it

Branched Bur-reed is a quirky looking waterside plant with spherical flowers. It might occasionally be mistaken for its unbranched relative (appropriately named ‘Unbranched Bur-reed’) but little else. Branched Bur-reed is a tall plant with linear leaves that lie broadside on to stem. The smaller male flowers sit above the female flowers on the stem.

Where to spot it

This wild plant is widespread around the UK, growing by waters edge, ponds, slow rivers, marshy ground and ditches. Branched Bur-reed is an easily uprooted plant and so prefers slower waters.

How’s it doing?

Branched Bur-reed is commonly found in its preferred habitats.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Corn Cleavers

Galium tricornutum

Corn Cleavers is an annual wildflower rather like the common Cleavers but much rarer and not so clingy.

How to spot it

Corn Cleavers is a rough, straggly plant with whorls of narrow leaves. The stems are sometimes square in cross-section. It differs from its common relative as it has cream-coloured flowers, as opposed to the white ones of the common weed. The fruits are spherical nutlets hanging in pairs at the leaf axils. As they lack hooked barbs, they do not stick to your clothes.

Where to spot it

It used to be a common weed of cereal crops, but has declined dramatically over the last 60 years owing to changing agricultural methods. Corn Cleavers is now found in only two sites in central-southern England. It prefers disturbed ground, mainly in arable fields, but also on hedge-banks and sea cliffs.

How’s it doing?

Corn Cleavers is classified as Critically Endangered. The use of fertilisers and herbicides, the loss of field margins and the development of highly productive crop varieties have led to its decline.

Things you might not know

  • In the Chilterns, the seeds of this rare arable weed were made into tops for lace pins.
  • In addition to Corn Cleavers, its common names include, three-horned bedstraw, rough corn bedstraw and roughfruit corn bedstraw.
  • Corn Cleavers is occasionally a weed of grain fields.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Cottongrass (Common)

Eriophorum angustifolium

Cottongrass (Common) is the county flower of Manchester. Its white plumes are a familiar sight in wet hollows on the moors above the city. They are an emblem both of their boggy habitat and of the wide open spaces.

How to spot it

Cottongrass (Common) has a fluffy, cotton-like flower and seed heads which give this distinctive plant its name. Cottongrass is a member of the sedge family and so not technically a grass at all. It thrives in the harshest of environments where it can take advantage of the lack of competition. After fertilisation in early summer, the small, unremarkable green and brown flowers develop distinctive white seed-heads that resemble tufts of cotton. Combined with its ecological suitability to bogs, these characteristics give rise to the plant’s alternative name, Bog Cotton.

Where to spot it

It is common in bogs throughout the UK and Ireland. Cottongrass (Common) likes open, wet, peaty ground and so is likely to indicate areas best avoided when out for a walk.

Things you might not know

  • The fluffy white fronds of Cottongrass were once used as a feather substitute in pillow stuffing in Suffolk and Sussex. Experiments have been done to see if a usable thread can be derived from the seed-plumes. However, the fibres are too short and brittle.
  • It has been used in the production of candle wicks and paper in Germany. In Scotland, Cottongrass was used to dress wounds during First World War.
  • Cottongrass seeds and stems are edible and are used in traditional Native American cuisine by Alaska natives, Inupiat people and Inuit. The roots and leaves are also edible and, owing to their astringent properties, are used by the Yupik peoples for medicinal purposes. Through a process of infusion, decoction and poultice they are used to treat aliments of the gastrointestinal tract and in the Old World for the treatment of diarrhoea.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum