The beauty of Britain’s wildflowers

by Charlotte.Barnes on September 3, 2010

The wildflowers in the UK are diverse, beautiful and colourful. There are some we know well and others we don’t, but there’s also a growing number that are becoming endangered.

A recent study was done by the charity Plantlife and they discovered that the most common wildflowers are nettles, cow parsley and the bluebell. However, more and more wildflower species are dying out. But wildflowers are protected. You aren’t allowed to pick wildflowers unless you have permission from the landowner. This includes from hedgerows and from railway banks.

They are a big part of our countryside, they provide food and habitats for insects and provide a wealth of colour and natural beauty to Britain.

Below are some of the most loved wildflowers both common and rare…

Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

The common bluebell flowers in April and May and can usually be found in large shady areas such as woodlands. The flowers have a strong, pleasant smell. A bluebell wood is a wood that is covered by a dense blanket of the little blue flowers. This is the best place to see them. Around 70% of all common bluebells are found in the UK.

Buttercup (Ranunculus)

There are around 600 species of buttercup; most have bright yellow or white petals. The common meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) is probably the one you used to test your fondness of butter as a child. The buttercup test was to hold a buttercup under your chin and if there was a yellow reflection you liked butter.

Corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis)

These daisy-like flowers aren’t as common as they once used to be. In fact they are becoming more and more scarce. Although they used to be quite abundant in cornfields they are susceptible to modern herbicides, which has lead to their dwindling numbers. Now they are more common on the boarders of cereal crops and railway banks.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

In the past the cornflower used to grow as a weed crop on cornfields, hence its name. It is now endangered in the wild due to the overused of herbicides in fields containing crops. It flowers from June until August and is classed as a beneficial weed as it is used in herbalism and can be added to salads.

Foxglove (Digitalis)

There are about 20 species of foxglove in colours such as pink, purple and white. The common foxglove is probably the one you see growing in the wild in Britain. The whole plant is toxic so has earned itself a few sinister nicknames such as ‘dead man’s bells’.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

In the UK the most widely seen honeysuckle is the common honeysuckle or woodbine. They are known for their very sweet-smelling flowers, which smell stronger in the evening so they can attract moths to pollinate them. They climb round other trees and shrubs and are most often seen poking out of hedgerows or in gardens.

Iris (Iridaceae)

Irises have very showy, colourful flowers and can be found growing on riverbanks and in meadows across the UK. Iris essential oil is used in aromatherapy the flowers have also been used to colour and flavour gin. The crocus belongs to the same family.

Lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)

These are now one of the most endangered species of wildflower in the UK. The once thought extinct flower is now legally protected from cultivation. This variety of orchid was spotted at a golf course in Lancashire and now patrols are made to ensure its safety.

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

These low-growing plants are also known as shepherd’s clock as they close when bad weather is about to arrive. They have small red, orange or blue flowers and are sometimes considered a weed.

Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Also called the field poppy this flower is known as a symbol for fallen soldiers. It generally flowers late in spring but if the weather is warm enough it will continue flowering into early autumn. It is most often seen growing in crops, which is why it is considered an agricultural weed.

Violet (Viola)

Violets and pansies fall into the same family and both are very popular amongst hedgerows and in gardens in the UK. Violet flowers make great additions to salads or in stuffing for fish and poultry.

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Charlotte Barnes

Post category: Knowledge  

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