Picking wild flowers is a good thing?

This Spring, Plantlife launches this year’s Great British Wildflower Hunt, with 21 new spring species to spot and a new code of conduct on when it is OK to pick wild flowers…


© Kim Masters/Plantlife

Last year, from the Channel Islands to the Orkney Islands, more than 15,200 wild flowers were spotted by the British public in the first year of this annual Hunt. Over 60 common species were included last summer and this year, Plantlife is adding 21 spring woodland flowers, including anemone, ramsons and early purple orchid. Despite an arctic winter and a cold spring so far, celandines, primroses, violets and stitchwort are all in bloom!

Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist Trevor Dines commented ‘Research we carried out with YouGov within the last year shows that 70% of the public want to know their wild flowers better, and this is such an easy way to do it: 15% of our hunters started out saying they couldn’t name any wildflowers and were ‘unsure’ of their identification abilities so that was particularly thrilling when they completed the Hunt. At the other end of the scale, thirteen of our hunters scored a full house, finding all the species on their spotter sheets and scoring the maximum 37 points.’

This year, the charity has also highlighted a dozen species within the Hunt that are so abundant that they are OK to pick and is publishing a new Code of Conduct to give people confidence when picking. Plantlife’s Vice President Rachel de Thame explains: ‘When I was growing up, we used to walk everywhere and I learnt to recognise common wild flowers. I knew my cowslip from my cow parsley and yes, I used to love picking little posies. So much of our wildlife is untouchable but common wild flowers and plants are different. I’ve gone on to teach my children and to nurture this relationship with our native flora that is fascinating, joyful and yes, important. The Great British Wildflower Hunt, with it’s helpful ID tips, can give us all confidence to identify flowers and also provides Plantlife with much needed information about how well they are doing.’

So when is it OK to pick wild flowers?

There is a prevalent sense that picking flowers is a bad thing. Many of us are unsure what’s OK and what’s not and so err on the safe side. Plantlife’s new code of conduct shows us that wild flowers don’t have to be out of bounds – and out of our lives. We are very used to picking some species (daisies, dandelions and wild garlic) but there are other wild flowers that are commonplace and even increasing in number.

Rachel is keen to add, ‘What we know and love we are more likely to conserve. It’s about children starting a relationship with wild flowers. It’s in a child’s instinct to collect, but today that means collecting stickers, toys or those must-have gadgets. Yet it wasn’t so long ago that children were just as keen to collect wild flowers, whether it was to take a posy home, press them, or make petal perfume, they were part of children’s everyday life. We need to ensure that this next generation is just as engaged and passionate so they will understand why wild flowers need to be cherished and protected for not only the beauty they bring to our lives but for their vital role as life support to all our wildlife.

The Great British Wildflower Hunt launches this Easter and runs right through the spring and summer. There are 68 species in this year’s hunt and 12 of these are OK to pick, with the assurance that you won’t do any harm IF you follow Plantlife’s new Code of Conduct when it comes to picking; whilst it’s not against the law to pick Plantlife urge people to check the Plantlife website for guidelines first. Happy hunting!


The Great British Wildflower Hunt

Do you love wild flowers? Would you like to know more about them? And help save them for the future?

Find out more