Skip to main content

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

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

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Twinflower

Linnaea borealis

Single twinflower on blurred background of foliage

The beautiful Twinflower has two pink bell-like flowers on a slender stem, and a thicker stem below which creeps along the ground, forming small mats of the plant. It is one of our smallest and most delicate native flowers.

Did you know?

Twinflower is the County Flower of Inverness-shire.

Several twinflowers amongst leaves

Where to spot it

Twinflower is confined to Scotland. It grows mainly in the native, open, pine woods, particularly in the Cairngorms, and is an Arctic-Alpine plant that is a relic of the Ice Age.

How did it get there?

The clearance of native woodlands before the 1930s resulted in severe losses of this little flower. Continued habitat destruction and changes in woodland management have now reduced this plant to a handful of about 50 unrelated sites.

One of the two heads of a twinflower in bloom and in focus, with the other remaining closed

What are Twinflower’s key threats?

The isolation of the remaining sites of Twinflower leads to poor seed production and thus contributes to its continued decline. Other threats are overgrazing by deer or sheep, mechanical harvesting of timber, and the deliberate thickening of forests leading to excess shade.

What we’re doing about it

One of Plantlife’s most exciting projects has been research into how the historical management of ancient pine plantation may have benefited Twinflower. A study of how timber was grown and extracted in the 18th and 19th centuries has led to a proposal to test whether these methods could boost Twinflower populations today.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

String-of-sausages Lichen

Usnea articulata 

  • Grey-green tassels of up to 1 m hanging down or draped across the substrate but rarely anchored to it.  
  • Main stems have inflated sections which are pinched at intervals, and so resemble a string of sausages. This is a key feature to look for as there are other pendulous Usnea species but none have this characteristic.

Habitat

It is most common in the south west’s temperate rainforest zone. 

Favouring well-lit conditions and dry, open situations, it is most often found in tree canopies or on lower branches where trees are well-lit, in woodland or on scattered trees in open moorland. You can also find it on the ground after stormy weather. 

Similar species

Other large, bearded lichens include Usnea ceratina, Usnea dasopoga and Usnea hirta but these lack the sausage-like lobes. 

Did you know

  • It is a Section 41 species which means that it is considered of “principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England” under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006).
  • A clean air indicator, rare outside of south-west England’s rainforest zone. Highly sensitive to sulphur dioxide pollution, it was once much more widespread in Britain but now appears to be making a comeback, perhaps due to improved air quality and a warming climate. 

Distribution 

Largely restricted to south-western parts of the UK with most records in south-west England. 

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Parrot waxcap

Gliophorus psittacinus 

Months

Season

Colour

Habitat

A Parrot Waxcap.

How to identify:

CapMainly green with underlying pink or yellow. Conical becoming flattened. Slimy texture. 
Cap Diameter2 – 4 cms 
GillsYellow, sometimes tinged green 
StemYellow-green, greener nearer the top 
FleshVariable, usually matches the cap colour 
SporesWhite

 

Where to find them?

The Parrot Waxcap (Gliophorus psittacinus) can be found in the summer and autumn on roadside verges,  cropped grassland and in churchyards. Appearing on lawns only after years of low-nutrient management.

It favours unimproved acid or neutral grassland, and are most plentiful in western Britain and particularly in Wales. 

Did you know?

There are two Parrot Waxcap species that are recognised: Gliophorus psittacinus and Gliophorus perplexa; the latter was previously considered to be a mere variety. 

 

 

Other Species

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Tree Lungwort
Tree Lungwort spanning entire branch of ancient tree

Tree Lungwort

Lobaria pulmonaria

Reindeer Moss
Small patch of jagged, white Reindeer Moss amongst bright green plants

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina

Violet Coral

Clavaria zollingeri

Violet coloured fungus with branches looking like coral on a green grassy area.

How to identify

Fruiting BodyCoral shaped and of a distinctive purple-violet colour
Fruiting body size3-10cm tall and up to 8cm across.
Individual stems are typically 4-7mm in diameter at the base,
branching upwards and outwards
SporesWhite

Where to find them?

Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri) is a rare species in Britain found in unimproved grassland. It is usually solitary, but can occur in small groups.

Did you know?

It is listed as vulnerable across Europe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Other Species

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Tree Lungwort
Tree Lungwort spanning entire branch of ancient tree

Tree Lungwort

Lobaria pulmonaria

Reindeer Moss
Small patch of jagged, white Reindeer Moss amongst bright green plants

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina

Fibrous Waxcap

Hygrocybe intermedia 

Orange waxcap with pointed cap in grass

How to identify:

CapBright orange and can be quite large. Conical, flattening with age, umbonate. Texture quite unique, with coarse scales, like wet velvet. The edge is irregular and splits with age. 
Cap diameter 5-11 cm
GillsPale to bright yellow
StemSimilar colour to cap, but sometimes more yellow and white showing. Very fibrous also. 
FleshPale yellow
SporesWhite

 

Where to find them?

The Fibrous Waxcap (Hygrocybe intermedia) is an uncommon to occasional find in most of Britain and Ireland except in some parts of Wales, where it is more frequently recorded. Most often seen in unimproved grassland and, occasionally, in sand-dune systems. 

Did you know?

The bright right orange (with hints of yellow) cap, fades and sometimes blackening with age.

Don’t mistake it with..

The Blackening Waxcap

Other Species

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Tree Lungwort
Tree Lungwort spanning entire branch of ancient tree

Tree Lungwort

Lobaria pulmonaria

Reindeer Moss
Small patch of jagged, white Reindeer Moss amongst bright green plants

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina

Hemlock

Conium maculatum

Hemlock flowerhead

Identifying Hemlock

Hemlock has umbrella-like white flowers, which appear in dome shaped rounded clumps in summer, which are usually 2-5 cm across.

One of the easiest ways to identify Hemlock is by its stems – which are mostly large, hairless and have purple spots or blotches along their length.

The leaves are fine and look similar to ferns – lacy and similar to that of others in the carrot family.

Hemlock is one of the UK’s tallest native umbellifer species, growing up to 2 metres and can smell quite unpleasant. The unpleasant smell is caused by the poisonous chemicals and acts as a deterrent to animals.

All parts of this plant are poisonous and all members of this family should be treated with caution, notably because Hemlock can be easily mistaken for Cow Parsley and other harmless members of it’s family.

A close up of the blotched stem of the Hemlock

Similar Species

The hairless purple blotched stems are key to identifying this plant (pictured), as well as the extremely unpleasant smell.

It can also be distinguished through it’s flowering time, as it flowers after Cow Parsley, and around the same time as Hogweed, in June and July.

Hemlock could be confused with Hogweed, Upright Hedge-parsley and Hemlock Water-dropwort (also poisonous).

Habitat

Likes damp places such as along streams, but can also be found growing in dry habitats such as scrubland and waste land.

Distribution

Widespread in most of England and the lowland areas of Wales, also found in some southern or coastal areas of Scotland.

Did you know?

  • Pollinators love it! Hemlock is a larval food-plant for several moth species, and a host to a hidden world of specific fungi species. These have all evolved alongside it to be able to tolerate the toxins.
  • Common names include Mother dies, Kexies and Woomlicks.
  • In 399 BC, Greek philosopher Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the young minds and for not believing in the gods of the state. He was sentenced to death and forced to drink an infusion of Hemlock.

 

We must remember that almost all wild plants & fungi are no danger to us as we go about our days. Plants are the foundation of life, and we need a world rich in plants to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Rosebay Willowherb

Chamerion angustifolium

Months

Colour

Habitat

A striking wild plant with tall spires of large pink flowers and leaves that grow like a staircase around the stem. Its leaves resemble those of the willow species, hence the name.

Rosebay willowherb is a fine example of a ‘pioneer species’ – the first plants to colonise a barren area with very little competition (such as the sites of forest fires). For this reason it was a familiar sight following the London Blitz (see below).

Distribution

Common throughout England, Wales and south-east Scotland. Rarer in Ireland.

Habitat

As a pioneer plant, Rosebay Willowherb thrives on waste ground. Keep an eye out for it when travelling by car or train. It likes to grow in dry, relatively open areas. It can typically be found in forest clearings, beside tracks and trails, on recently disturbed ground and on well-drained banks of rivers. Since it can colonise disturbed sites, even following an oil spill, it is often used to re-establish vegetation.

Best time to see

Late summer, when it flowers: July-September.

Did you know…

  • Commonly known as Fireweed in North America, it often appears after forest fires and other events which leave the earth scorched. This tendency also gave rise to the name Bombweed in the UK. London has indelible memories of the drifts of this flower in the bomb sites of the second world war.
  • As a pioneer plant it was one of the first to colonise the scarred earth, and its vivid spires were synonymous with London’s revival. As such, it was a popular choice as the County Flower of our capital. Today it mingles with buddleias and Michaelmas daisies on railway banks, old walls and waste ground.
  • Uses of Rosebay Willowherb include natural cordage, clothing, and fire-lighting to edible roots, shoots, leaves and flowers as well as numerous medicinal applications, some of which are currently under investigation. It can be used to treat cuts or pus-filled boils by placing a piece of raw stem on the afflicted area.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Common Knapweed

Centaurea nigra

Also known as “Hardheads” or “Black knapweed”, this wild flower is one of our toughest meadow plants.

Knapweed is a firm favourite of our pollinating insects, being a source of good quality nectar. And as well as supporting our bee, butterflies and beetles its seeds provide food for many birds.

Identification

Somewhat thistle-like, common knapweed can be identified by its slightly spherical black/brown flower head, growing alone, topped with purple, pink or (more rarely) white. The bracts are triangular in shape. Its leaves are linear to lance-like in shape with incomplete lobes.

Greater knapweed – a close relation – is similar but its flowers are more garish and opulent and its leaves are fully lobed.

Distribution

Found throughout Britain.

Habitat

Knapweed is a wild flower of meadows and other grassland habitats from lawns to cliff-tops. It can often be seen on road verges where wildlife is allowed to thrive and also in hedges.

Best time to see

In flower, June to September.

Did you know…

  • In days gone by eligible young women would play a love-divination game by pulling out the rays and putting the plucked knapweed flower in their blouse. When as-yet unopened florets began to bloom it would tell her the man of her dreams was near. This game to foretell the future of love is also played with Plantago major.
  • Most of the local names including Bachelor’s buttons, Blue bottle and Iron knobs are explained by the hard, knobby heads, the bottle-shaped involucre and the toughness of the plant.
  • Knapweed was used for ruptures and wounds, bruises, sores, scabs and sore throat, etc.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum

Lady’s Bedstraw

Galium verum

‘O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth’ – Chaucer, The Merchant’s Tale”

Also known as ‘yellow bedstraw’, a frothy blossom with a wonderful honey scent.

A very distinctive plant with soft clusters of bright yellow flowers that smell of hay. The leaves are narrow, dark green and in whorls. It often creeps amongst grasses, sending up tall flowering stems in summer.

It is related to the plant cleavers, or ‘Sticky Willy’ Galium aparine.

Distribution

Lady’s bedstraw can be found growing across the UK.

Habitat

Meadows, road verges, cliff tops, hedges, dunes and other grassy places.

Best time to see

In the summer months, when in bloom and producing its scent.

Did you know…

  • Before the advent of the modern mattress, lady’s bedstraw was a popular choice for bedding thanks to its soft and springy quality and pleasant scent (when dried it smells of hay). Also it has an astringent quality which may also have brought it into the bed against fleas.
  • According to one medieval legend, the Virgin Mary Herself gave birth whilst lying on a bed of lady’s bedstraw and bracken. The bracken refused to acknowledge the baby Jesus and in doing so lost its flower. Lady’s bedstraw, however, bloomed in recognition. As it did so its flowers changed from white to gold.
  • The flower also has an association with giving birth in Norse mythology. In the past Scandinavians used lady’s bedstraw as a sedative for women in labour. Frigg, the goddess of married women, was said to help women give birth. As such they called it ‘Frigg’s grass’.
  • Its flowers were also used as an alternative to renin to coagulate milk in cheese production (sadly, the exact method of how this was done have been lost). Additionally, in Gloucestershire, it was used to add colour to Double Gloucester.

Other Species

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet

Viola odorata

Marsh-marigold
Ten bright yellow Marsh-marigold flowers

Marsh-marigold

Caltha palustris

Read Dead-nettle

Read Dead-nettle

Lamium purpureum