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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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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.
Other large, bearded lichens include Usnea ceratina, Usnea dasopoga and Usnea hirta but these lack the sausage-like lobes.
Largely restricted to south-western parts of the UK with most records in south-west England.
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.
There are two Parrot Waxcap species that are recognised: Gliophorus psittacinus and Gliophorus perplexa; the latter was previously considered to be a mere variety.
Image by Sarah Shuttleworth
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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.
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).
Likes damp places such as along streams, but can also be found growing in dry habitats such as scrubland and waste land.
Widespread in most of England and the lowland areas of Wales, also found in some southern or coastal areas of Scotland.
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.
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.
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.
Found throughout Britain.
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.
In flower, June to September.
‘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.
Lady’s bedstraw can be found growing across the UK.
Meadows, road verges, cliff tops, hedges, dunes and other grassy places.
In the summer months, when in bloom and producing its scent.
One of our rarer plants, its pretty pale yellow flowers liven up our dunes.
This wild flower is difficult to spot as it is small (around 8cm tall) and inconspicuous. The leaves wrap around the bottom of the single stem which supports several flowers towards the top of the plant.
The orchid is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, a naturally marshy area. Fen orchid needs wet areas with bare sand, short grasses and a lot of calcium in the soil.
The species has declined due to habitat loss as a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland. Plantlife has worked with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to translocate Fen Orchid to restored habitats.
The majority of the Fen Orchid populations were lost through drainage and in the late 20th Century through peat digging and mowing. Other threats include climate change, inappropriate water and habitat management.
After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites and the total population has risen through proper management.
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A prickly, sprawling evergreen shrub in the Cypress family with short spiky leaves.
Juniper blooms with small yellow flowers, followed by ‘berries’ – actually fleshy cones, that start green but ripen to blue-black.
These are famously used to flavour gin and certain meat dishes particularly game and venison. Used whole they impart a bitter, crunchy bite to savoury dishes. In fact, the word “Gin” derives from either genièvre or jenever – the French and Dutch words for “juniper”
Juniper is dioecious, which means that it is either male or female, unlike most tree species. The form of individual bushes varies from being low and prostrate at the one extreme to cylindrical and conical at the other.
In the Saving England’s Lowland Juniper project, Plantlife joined forces with landowners, supported by Natural England, to revitalise Juniper across southern England. 48 patches of land at nine sites in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire were scraped back to create a grassland habitat suitable for Juniper to regenerate.
Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima
The South Stack Fleawort is found along a small section of the North Wales Coastal Path on Ynys Gybi (Holy Island).
Found only between Parth Dafarch and RSPB South Stack Nature Reserve
Grassy cliff tops and vegetated gullies
May and early June
Plantlife supports a project to understand why this subspecies of Fleawort is only found in this small area of Ynys Gybi and the ecological requirements of the plants.
The Tufted Saxifrage population in Wales grows on just a couple of boulders where it is extremely threatened by spring droughts and lack of winter snow cover.
Just 2 small boulders at one site in Wales and a number of sites in Scotland.
Cliff ledges and boulders on calcium rich rocks in Eryri and the Scottish Highlands
This species flowers from May through to early June however the inaccessibility of its sites makes it a very difficult species to see in the wild.
Tufted Saxifrage was first discovered in the wild in Wales in 1796 but wasn’t seen between the late 1800’s and the 1950’s when it was rediscovered by Evan Roberts (the first warden of Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve).
In the 1970’s its population was bolstered by a conservation reintroduction and it saw a population high in the 1980’s. Since then it has seen a steady decline and the Welsh population of Tufted Saxifrage now (2023) numbers just seven plants in the wild.
Through the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri Project (part of Natur am Byth!) we are successfully cultivating Welsh Tufted Saxifrage plants with a plan to enable them to move higher up the mountains of Eryri to sites where they will see snow for longer in the winter.
Read about Natur am Byth! A Green Recovery project to save vulnerable species from extinction in Wales, including the Tufted Saxifrage
Saxifraga rosacea subsp. rosacea
The Irish Saxifrage was once found in Wales too. Its upright buds and bright white flowers distinguish it clearly from the other ‘mossy’ saxifrages found in the British Isles.
Several localities in Ireland and once known from just one locality in Eryri, Wales.
Calcium rich rock ledges and crevices.
You can see this species flowering in cultivation at the National Botanic Garden of Wales during May and June
Rosy Saxifrage is extinct in the wild in Wales. It was last seen in the wild in Wales in the 1960’s.
Richard Roberts discovered a piece of a plant that had been washed down from a cliff whilst he was leading a group on a geology walk. Noticing it was something different he took the piece of plant home and grew it. All the Welsh Rosy Saxifrage material now kept in cultivation came from that small piece of plant. Through the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri Project (part of Natur am Byth!) we plan to reintroduce Rosie Saxifrage to the wild again in Wales.
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