Here is a selection of, the many, beautiful wild flowers that I have encountered on my walks in the countryside over the last few Summer months.
ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB - chamerion angustifolium
This tall (up to 150cm) plant is one of our more easily recognised wild flowers, with its Summer flowers of purplish red and its fluffy white seed heads in Autumn. It thrives on almost any ground but will quickly colonise any waste ground, particularly bonfire sites, hence its other common name, "fireweed". Widespread throughout the British Isles, it flowers from June to September.
COMMON ROCK-ROSE - helianthemum nummularium
Despite its name, the common rock-rose is not a rose and has neither scent or nectar. However it has abundant pollen to attract insects, and can also pollinate itself. The yellow flowers can vary in colour and some have an orange spot at the base of each petal. It grows on chalky/limestone grassland in England and Wales, is rare in Scotland and even rarer in Ireland. Flowers appear from June to September.
COMMON POPPY - papaver rhoens
In years gone by before the widespread use of agri-chemicals and intensive farming the common poppy was a regularly seen growing in cornfields throughout the country. Now it is mainly seen in hedgerows and roadside verges, occasionally it is seen putting on a colourful display in un-sprayed fields. A single plant can produce, in succession, 400 plus flowers during the summer. The seeds are very tiny and are Black/Brown in colour and are scattered from the rounded seedpod by the action of the wind. The seeds can stay dormant in the ground for many years and then suddenly spring into life after the ground has been disturbed, ( hence they are a common sight on new roadside verges). Scarce in the North and West but widespread in the rest of the country it flowers from June to August.
CLUSTERD BELLFLOWER - campanula glomarata
As its name indicates the rich violet coloured bell shaped flowers are carried in stalk less clusters atop a hairy stem. The height of this plant can vary anywhere between 2.5 to 80cm and it grows on chalk and limestone grassland and shell rich dunes mainly in the South and East of Britain (it is absent from Ireland) and flowers from June to October.
PERFORATE ST. JOHN'S-WORT - hypericum perforatum
This plant derives both its common and Latin names from the translucent glands on the leaves, which, when held up to the light, look like perforations. (click on the picture to see it enlarged) It also differs from other similar St. John's-worts by having two narrow ridges running along its stem.
During the crusades, the knights of St. John of Jerusalem used the leaves to heal their battle wounds.
The flowers, from July to September, have black dots along their edges and can be up to 25mm (1") across. Habitat : Grassland, hedgerows and woods throughout Britain.
COMMON RESTHARROW - ononis repens
The common restharrow is a perennial plant that gets its name from the deep, tough roots and matted stems for which, before the days of powerful farm machinery, it would be cursed for 'arresting' the harrow. The pretty pink flowers are held on hairy stems some of which trail along the ground where they will readily take root. Common restharrow grows in calcareous soils in England and Wales but is rarer in Scotland and Ireland. Flowers appear from June to September.
GREATER KNAPWEED - centaurea scabiosa
Larger than the common knapweed the greater knapweed can be further distinguished from its cousin by comparing the flower heads, the g. knapweed always has enlarged spreading florets whereas those of the c. knapweed are much denser and smaller. The brown appendages on top of the bracts are triangular or round on the g.knapweed and horseshoe shaped on the c. knapweed. It grows on roadside verges and dry, lime rich grassland and is rarer in the North and West of the country. It flowers from July to September.
SPEAR THISTLE - cirsium vulgare
The Spear Thistle is an upright biennial with downy stems that are spiny-winged between the leaves. It is common in grassland and disturbed ground throughout the British Isles. The flowers, from July to September, comprise of purple florets topping a ball covered with sharp pointed bracts.
HAREBELL - campanula rotundifolia
Known in Scotland as Bluebell, the delicate bell shaped flowers hang on fine stems which allow them to nod in any slight breeze. Very occasionally the flowers can be white or pinkish instead of the more common blue. The leaves at the base of the plant are usually withered by the time the flowers appear in July and through to September. The Harebell grows in dry grassy places throughout Britain, although rare in Ireland.
WATER MINT - mentha aquatica
Water Mint, used by the Romans as a herb 2000 years ago, is the commonest of all wild mints and can be found growing in many damp, marshy places throughout the British Isles. When crushed underfoot it produces that unmistakeable and pungent minty smell. The purple, pompom shaped, flowers appear from July to September.
SNEEZEWORT - achillea ptarmica
Sneezewort is a greyish, erect plant with a creeping root, the flowers are creamy white and similar, although larger and fewer, to the Yarrow, to which it is related. The leaves are narrow and undivided with a saw-toothed edge, unlike the Yarrow which has 'feathery' leaves.
In the middle ages the root was used to ease the pain of toothache and to relieve the symptoms associated with a cold.
Sneezewort grows in damp, normally acid, grassland throughout the British Isles, but is rarer in Ireland. The flowers appear between July and September.
COMMON CENTUARY - centaurium erythraea
Depending on the conditions in which it grows common centaury can range from 50mm to over 30cm in height. The pink flowers are usually un-stalked and in dense clusters. It prefers dry grassy areas, including dunes, where it flowers from June to October. It is rare in Scotland but widespread elsewhere in the British Isles.