Colour in Clover

Clover may be the only wildflower more famous for its leaves than its blooms. 

The three lobed shamrock leaves are symbolic of all things Irish but this widespread family of plants grows here too; and right now it’s “Pom-Pom” flowers are at our feet. 

Clover grows wild today but before commercial fertilisers were common, farmers would plant it because of its ability to capture nitrogen, the main component of many fertilisers; and fix it in the soil. 

Two clovers are most common in England. Red and White Clover. White clover is more often associated with species poor, cultivated and fertilised land, whereas its red cousin is often an indicator of species rich grassland where other wild flowers thrive. 

It is possible from time to time, to find both growing together 


Red Campion, Pink Star of the Woods and Hedges

As spring progresses, many wildflowers are overtaken by vigorous plants such as nettle, bramble and grasses. 

Where the soil is rich more colourful wild flowers may be fewer now but a few stars shine out against the verdant background. 

AS a boy, after learning the names of bluebell, daisy and dandelion, the next wildflower I came to know was Red Campion (Silene dioca)

Growing up to three feet tall it can keep up with all but the most vigorous competitors in the race for sunlight that plants engage in. It’s a common and welcome sight in hedges and woods. 

Look closely and there are two types of flower. Male with twisted yellow anthers and female, with delicate, greener stamen.


Hogweed (and cow parsley)

Hogweed is taking over the verges and woodland edges. 

The good news is, there’s nothing wrong. At around the same time Cow Parsley goes to seed and its delicate white flowers fade, it is succeeded by its cousin, hogweed. 

Both are members of the carrot and parsley family; and by far their most common members in the British countryside. 

I was at the Bushcraft Show this weekend and found the two growing together in a hedgerow. The Cow Parsley is at the end of its flowering period, the Hogweed at the start. 

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that Cow Parsley has more delicate, feather-like leaves, Hogweed’s are more robust, thicker and larger. 

There are nearly forty members of the carrot family growing wild in Britain. Thirty of them look very similar. Some have irritants in their sap and some are poisonous; some are delicious wild food. This makes them a very useful group to know; but to know well. 

I’ll be adding posts about the different members of this family as I encounter them over summer. 

Heathland Heather Burns

Burning wildlife’s home doesn’t sound like conservation. 

I was on the Long Mynd, a hill covered by upland Heath in Shropshire, last week. 

On the hill plateau, the National Trust has been burning areas of heather for years. 

Rather than destroying the habitat, by clearing aging heather this way, the conditions are created where new growth of heather and bilberry can begin. 

By managing the heath this way, conservationists are creating a mix aged heather covering, providing a better habitat for wildlife from grouse to butterflies. 

The Many-Named Wild Arum

Wild Arum (Arum maculatum) is known by many names.


“Cuckoo Pint,” “Lords and Ladies,” “Friars Cowl,” Wake Robin;” and “Jack-in-the-Pulpit,” are but a few of the traditional English names for the species.


Many of the names refer to the distinctive shape of the plant, with its phallus-like “spadex” at the centre. This organ is the flower of the plant and as well as becoming the fruiting body later in the year, growing a distinctive column of red berries, attracts insects with it’s odour, which smells of faeces.


It’s not a flower to put in the living room.

The plant and its berries are also poisonous. A dramatic feature to look out for on a spring walk in the woods.


New Goslings

It’s spring and new life is everywhere. 

Since discovering this nest while taking a short-cut round the millpond. 

Since then I’ve kept an eye on it and today I saw the eggs have hatched and there are seven goslings. 

The Annual Attack of the Sycamore Seedlings

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatynus) is a member of the Maple family of trees. 

  • Sycamore leaves and catkins in spring 

Although not a native to Britain it is a common species, naturalized in our woodlands. 

Every autumn, it produces thousands of seeds which fall to the ground on “helicopter” sails that catch the breeze and transport them away from the parent tree. 

Come spring, anywhere near a stand of sycamores, hundreds and hundreds of seedlings shoot from the ground on the woodland floor, in gardens, hedges and fallow land. 

  • The first leaves of a sycamore seedling

  • As seedlings grow, new leaves take the shape of the adult tree leaves

  • It is common for hundreds or thousands of seedlings to sprout in spring

It’s no wonder this tree has been so successful at colonising much of Britain. 

Ivy or Not Ivy

Ivy (Hedera helix,) an evergreen climbing plant, is a common sight in woods and on trees across Britain
It’s an important plant for wildlife, providing shelter, berries and nectar at times of the year when these are scarce. 

The first growth phase, as ivy climbs from ground level, into the tree

The second phase of ivy growth, with an oval shaped leaf

The plant spreads across the ground until it finds a tree to climb, then using micro-rootlets to grip the trunk, climbs the trees. The ivy changes its leaf shape once it has climbed the tree, from a palmate (pointed, star-shaped) leaf to an elliptical shape. Only after this will it flower and have berries. 

Ivy has been unpopular amongst foresters for many generations, their view being test iT world stamp and kill trees. In fact ivy would rarely swamp a healthy tree. 
In the modern age it has been suggested that mild winters have made ivy more vigorous. Ivy also poses a threat to trees by acting as a wind-catcher during winter storms, increasing the likelihood of the trees being blown over. 

It looks like ivy will be controversial for years to come. 

A Surprise Wildflower Habitat 

I recently pulled into a laybye near home and realised I had chanced upon a rich oasis of wildflowers. 

The laybye has been used over recent years as a parking place, a store for road stone and access to a construction site. The heaps of unused road stone bulldozed into the verges has made the area perfect for a much wider variety of species than I would expect to see in such an area. 

Many wildflowers thrive in soil which is low in nutrients, which is why I think the stone chippings added to the verges have allowed these plants to thrive.