A combination of the recent rains and the rising temperatures we’re getting now is creating ideal conditions for wild flowers. Any piece of uncultivated land is starting to bursting forth with flora which in turn is providing food and cover for flies, bees, beetles, butteflies and a plethora of other insect life. Which is also good for the birds, small mammals and other predators, and so on up the food chain. And on top of that it’s lovely to look at. So here’s a selection of flora currently blossoming in my patch of East Anglia:
Ground ivy – Glechoma hederacea
I like ground ivy because it occurs early in the year, first appearing in March, but like many other phenological phenomena it may now be happening earlier. It creeps across the ground, like ivy, forming carpets of blue flowers and with the green and red leaves it adds lots of colour to the undergrowth. It has numerous names and here are a few from the Royal Horticultural Society website: Devils candlestick, creeping charlie, crows guts, wild snakeroot, hens and chickens, gill-go-by-the- street, and my favourite: ale gill.
Another creeper which grows across the ground and in hedgerows and which has lovely blue flowers is the periwinkle. There are two types of periwinkle, the lesser (Vinca minor) which may have been introduced to the UK and the greater (Vinca major), which was introduced (both according to my wild flower guide).
I’m a tad confused by this flower because they are meant to have 5 petals but this one only has 4. It is also known as creeping myrtle, cut-finger, flower of death (!), grave myrtle, and sorcerer’s violet, among others.
Sprouting next to this periwinkle flower was a nascent white deadnettle, Lamium album. It normally has white flowers which haven’t yet arrived, but the closed buds are visible below the crown. Everything is very green at the moment because of all the rain and looks beautiful against the red wing cases of the ladybird .
White deadnettle about to burst into bloom
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus
It is thought the greater celandine is named after the swallow (‘khelidon’ is Greek for swallow) and it’s a member of the poppy family. When the stems are broken they ooze a latex sap which is as yellow as the flowers, and the colour can be as deep as orange. It contains a host of alkaloids which confer therapeutic properties but it can also be toxic. It is also known as cocks foot, sight wort and wart wort as the sap has been applied as a treatment for warts. I’m not sure where ‘sight wort‘ comes from, but if it burns off warts I wouldn’t want it anywhere near my eyes!
Cow parsley – Anthriscus sylvestris
As far as I know cow parsley doesn’t have medicinal properties and according to Wiki it’s not pleasant to eat. But I think the flowers are lovely and they bring back childhood memories of running through the woods in springtime when the cow parsley or ‘keck‘, as it was referred to by my Dad, was as tall as me. There’s nothing quite like a forest floor which is full of cow parsley, in it’s own way it’s as iconic as blue bells. It’s also known as wild chervil and Queen Anne’s Lace.
At the end of my flower finding mission I was looking for a ground ivy flower head and I found this little beauty, and just as I was just about to open the shutter a beefly zoomed in to sip the nectar. Flower pictures can benefit from some insect action and I like beeflies, so this was a highly serendipitous encounter!
Erratum: Maggie from ‘http://www.intouchwithnature.co.uk‘ has pointed out that the last flower with the beefly on is in fact red deadnettle – not ground ivy. So a big thankyou to Maggie for keeping me honest with my plant identification 🙂
Hi Finn, seeing this post reminds me of some of the things I have been missing the last week with little opportunity to be out exploring and new growth showing itself each day. Nice post!
Thanks Rick, it’s absolutely verdant around here just now because of the wet weather. It’s great for the flowers but not so good for the bees and butterlies. More flowers to follow soon…
Hi Finn, Roadsides lined with cow parsley are one of my favourite sights of early summer – the plant was always ‘keck‘ to us in Northamptonshire too- its greatest attribute to us as kids was its hollow stems which we used to make ‘pea-shooters’, with the buds of hawthorn flowers as the missiles!
Hello Theresa, you and me both! And we did the pea-shooter thing too. I’m from Northampton and my Dad is from Blisworth just outside – hence ‘keck’ – where abouts do you originate from?
In Texas, Lamium amplexicaule, or henbit deadnettle, is a common sight in the early spring (i.e. February!), though it’s European and therefore not native here. That’s what I first thought I was seeing in your picture, and I wasn’t far off.
You were very close, henbit deadnettle is found in the east of England but is less common in other parts. It looks similar to red deadnettle but the leaves wrapping around the stem (‘amplexicaule‘) easily differentiates it.
I’m learning so much from you since my knowledge of horticulture is quite sad and I wish I knew all the names of the wildflowers, birds and other plants I see along the way. If you could recommend a good simple guide book I could carry with me when I go for my nature walks with my son, I would be most grateful. It would be such a great learning experience for us. Thank you and I just have to let you know how much I enjoy your excellent photos. I especially loved the cow parsley and the ladybird on the nettles! Sharon
Hello Sharon, the guide I use is a bit of an antique and only covers the flowers of the UK. If I’m looking for general guides my first stop is usually the Collins guides. I don’t know what their wild flower guides are like and I’ve read good and less good reviews of them. But I think those kind of books are very personal and folk love them or hate them!
I’m glad you like my flower pictures. I like taking pictures of wild flowers, they sway in the breezze but they don’t fly away 😉
Thank you so much Finn for getting back to me on this! I will surely look into the Collins guide. Thanks for putting me on the right track. Have a sunny weekend! We’re hitting 20 degrees here. Sharon
You’re welcome Sharon. I hope you find a good guide.
The temperature is between 25-30C here so we’re enjoying some glorious sunny weather – and it’s brought the buterflies out too 🙂
Lovely post – the bottom pic looks more like red dead nettle to me!
Hello Maggie, you’re dead right (no pun intended ;-)) – I shall amend accordingly. Thanks for correcting me.
Lovely, lovely shots, Finn. I’ve been meaning to tell you for many weeks now that I “misspoke” a while back when I referred to the “macro lens” on my camera. I meant the macro “setting” on my camera. A huge difference!
Anyway, I love your ladybug (ladybird), and I especially appreciate the shallow depth of field on your shots. You bring your subjects into such a beautiful, crisp focus.
Whatever it is, it works for you – you’ve got lots of terrific photographs on your blog!
I usually try to focus on the whole scene but sometimes I try to play with the dof, it depends on how much light is available.
Your photos are beautiful Finn, and make me feel all summery. Those lists of names remind me that whenever I’m out with my mum and we see them, we point and say ‘cuckoo flower, ladies smock, milkmaids, fairy wings’. Not necessarily in that order, but we like to list the names. She’s very good on wildflowers and I’m always trying to learn them, I only wish they would stay in my memory from year to year. On the subject of insects, I’ve had to put a few wasps outside over the past few days, and am definitely noticing a rise in butterflies and other critters.
Hello Lorna, I think it’s grand that you know and revel in all the names! When I started The Naturephile I hoped that I’d get feedback about local names for flowers, birds etc. If you see any species you have a local or different name for please let me know and I’ll add it to the post (and credit it to your good self and your Mum). Good to hear the bugs are back – they are down here too, in fact I photographed a lovely yellow moth today which I’ve never seen before, so the rest of my evening wil be spent trying to id it.