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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

Yew

Taxus baccata

Season

Colour

Habitat

Six red Yew berries alongside two younger green berries

A mature yew is compelling for its dense, dark evergreen foliage and buttressed trunk that has a colour close to mahogany.

Yew has a unique and remarkable association with churchyards where it was planted over graves to protect and purify the dead, and also for more mundane reasons such as being planted on a protected site to provide wood for long bows and to keep poisonous foliage out of reach of browsing cattle. It is also used for providing decoration for churches.

Clusters of red berried on branches of the Yew in a warm light

Where to spot it

Yew is concentrated in south-east and central England. It is primarily found in churchyards and woodland.

It is principally a species of well-drained chalk and limestone soils. In ancient woods it grows alongside ash, maple and beech.

Best time to spot it

The best time to spot Yew is over the winter, specifically in November, December and January.

Does Yew have any medicinal value?

It’s important to note that every part of the yew is poisonous except the flesh of its red berrylike fruit (the aril), although even that contains a toxic seed. The aril is slightly sweet which makes it tempting for children. Eating just a few seeds or a handful of leaves causes gastrointestinal problems, a dangerous drop in pulse rate and possible heart failure. Many victims are found dead and therefore are never able to describe their symptoms. Suicide by Yew was a way of avoiding defeat in Ceasar’s Gallic Wars.

However, Yews do contain an alkaloid named taxol which seems to be effective against ovarian, breast and lung cancers. Drug companies and research laboratories are offering to buy the foliage in bulk.

Two bright red berries on the green branches of the Yew

Things you might not know

  • Yew’s sticky red berries are popular with birds, and bird-sown seedlings can colonise open chalk downland as well.
  • In some parts of the UK you might hear Yew referred to as ‘Hampshire weed’ or ‘Snotty-gogs’ (for the berries).
  • The world’s oldest known wooden artefact is a 250,000-year-old yew-spear that was found at Clacton in Essex. The timber is so hard that it outlives iron.
  • The slow-growing yew can live two or three centuries but it is difficult to date mature trees because the dense wood does not always produce rings.
  • Yews are often pruned into formal hedges such as Hampton Court Palace’s famous 300-year-old hedge maze.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Olive Earthtongue

Microglossum olivaceum

Reddish tongue like fungus emerging from grassland

How to identify

Fruiting bodyLike dark reddish, brown or olive green coloured clubs, or tongues, emerging from the soil
Fruiting body sizeUp to 7cm in height
StemUsually with shades of olive-green
SporesWhite

Where to find them?

Rare but when found usually on unimproved grassland, often mossy between late summer and autumn. 

Did you know?

The latin name for Olive Earthtongues is Microglossum Olivaceum. Microglossum means small tongue, while  olivaceum refers to the hint of olive to most of the fruitbodies (but note that the colour is very variable with some being much browner than others). 

 

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

Meadow Waxcap

Hygrocybe pratensis

Apricot mushroom with flat top

How to identify:

CapApricot, slightly pitted and with powdery bloom sometimes visible with a hand lens, fading to buff with age. Convex, becoming flattened or slightly concave. 
Cap Diameter2.5 – 10 cm 
GillsPale whitish apricot 
StemsWhitish apricot, tapering to the base. 
FleshWhitish apricot 
SporesWhite

 

 

Where to find them?

Meadow Waxcaps (Hygrocybe pratensis) are a common find on cropped grassland and upland pastures. It appears from late August until December. Particularly in upland areas on acidic soil, the Meadow Waxcap is one of the few waxcap species that can tolerate small amounts of fertiliser being applied to its grassland habitat.

Did you know?

Two varieties of the Meadow Waxcap occur in BritainOne is apricot and the other is paler and almost white. It is a conspicuous and robust waxcap often persisting for several weeks. 

Don’t mistake it with…

Pink Ballerina

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

Hart’s-tongue Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium

Months

Season

Colour

This evergreen plant has long, tongue shaped leaves with a pointy end.

Distribution

Widespread across Britain, except in the far north.

Habitat

Can be found in sheltered moist habitats such as woods, on hedge banks, in walls and in ditches.

Did you know?

  • The underside of the leaves have little marks reminiscent of centipedes legs, leading to the species name ‘scolopendrium’ (the Latin for centipede!)
  • A hart was an old name for a deer, so the plant was so-named as it specifically looks like a deer’s tongue.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ivy

Hedera helix

A evergreen woody climbing wild plant, commonly seen on old walls and tree trunks.

Ivy is often found carpeting the ground or growing up walls and trees.

Its flowers bloom in an umbrella-like spread. In fact the term for such a bloom – an ‘umbel’ – derives from the same source as umbrella – umbra, the Latin word for shade.

It’s leaves are dark green glossy above, paler below. On flowering shoots leaves are pointed oval.

Distribution

Widespread throughout the UK.

Habitat

Woods, hedgerows, rocks and walls. Very commonly found on tree trunks.

Best time to see

Flowers September to November.

Did you know?

  • Ivy is, of course, celebrated with holly in the Christmas Carol of the same name. Its symbolism, however, predates Christianity. As evergreen species both holly and ivy were seen as especially powerful during the leafless days of winter. Sprigs were said to ward off evil spirits and inside the home kept the house goblins at bay. Of the two, ivy – shapely and curvaceous – was said to represent the feminine as compared to the spiky, angular masculinity of holly.
  • Local names include Bentwood, Bindwood, Hibbin, Ivin, Ivery and the enchanting Love-Stone used in Leicestershire.
  • In the Highlands and Islands it has been used as protection, to keep evil away from milk, butter and the animals. Circlets of ivy alone, or ivy plaited with Rowan and honeysuckle were hung over the lintels of byres and put under milk vessels.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Blackening Waxcap

Hygrocybe conica 

A dark pointed mushroom with long stem growing in the grass

How to identify:

CapConical in shape. Typical waxcap texture. Dark to pale orange/yellow, blackening at the tip first or where bruised. 
Cap Diameter1.5 – 3.5 cm 
GillsPale lemon, also blackening with age. 
Stems Pale yellow, blackening with age.
FleshYellow
SporesWhite

 

Where to find them?

Blackening Waxcaps (Hygrocybe conica) sometimes appears in lines along roadside verges, particularly on hillsides or where the grass is well shaded, moist and mossy. 

Other common names

Witches Hat

Did you know?

Blackening Waxcaps can appear remarkably quickly after rain in late summer and autumn, but once mature they remain standing sometimes for more than two weeks. 

They are one of the most common waxcaps in Northern Europe.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

Parrot waxcap

Gliophorus psittacinus 

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

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

Hazel Glove Fungus

Hypocreopsis rhododendri

Description

Found on Hazel trees in Britain, it is actually parasitic on the Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugate not living off the Hazel tree. It is not always possible to see the host crust fungus due to the presence of the Hazel Glove fungus and mosses.

Hazel Glove Fungus’ common name comes from the finger-like projections of the stromata (cushion-like plate of solid mycelium).  It is a type of ascomycete fungus. When mature, the central area of a stroma becomes pinkish brown, and individual perithecia (tiny black dots on the surface of these orange lobes which are sac openings which release the spores) become visible.

Distribution

Most likely to find in either west coast of Scotland in Atlantic Hazel woodland or temperate rainforest sites or in the south west of England, in North Devon and Cornwall, again in temperate rainforest habitat.

Habitat

Temperate rainforest, parasitic on Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugata on Hazel trees.

Did you know?

Hazel Glove fungus is an indicator of good air quality and temperate rainforest conditions, making it a flagship species for this threatened habitat.

Temperate rainforests are found in areas that are influenced by the sea, with high rainfall and humidity and damp climate. They are home to some intriguing and sometimes rare bryophytes, plants and fungi.

Plantlife are working in many ways to protect and restore this globally threatened habitat.

Other Species

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

Silene flos-cuculi