With the return of longer days and sunshine comes the welcome appearance of wildflowers all across the United Kingdom. Alongside all the fresh greens of budding trees, the flashes of blue, white, yellow and more make it feel like the dark days of winter are truly over. There are some wildflowers which automatically summon up Spring in the UK, commonly found in woods and even growing between cracks in the pavement on city streets.
1 – Bluebells – There can be very few British children who haven't come across the concept of a bluebell wood. Running through a woodland where every tree has its roots buried beneath a riotous carpet of bluebells is almost a given part of childhood.
From April through May the nodding stems of blue 'fairy hats' line paths, create seas of blue in fields and woods and stand proud in many urban gardens. Preferring to grow in moist, shady conditions, bluebells come in white varieties too. (Pink ones are Spanish rather than native).
Once upon a time the humble bluebell was known as 'The flower of England' and it is thought that up to half the world's bluebell population grows in Britain. It is against the law to dig up the bulbs of native bluebells in the wild with the aim of selling them, but people are free to take leaves, seeds and flowers. For more about bluebells, follow this link.
2 – Cowslip – Often referred to as primula, Key of Heaven and Herb Peter, these delicate stalks of vibrant yellow loveliness are commonly found in pastures and meadowland. A fan of lime-rich soils, the Cowslip is a fairly common sight across the UK. Of recent times the plants are protected from picking in the wild due to a gradual decline.
A legend behind the key-connected names for this plant says that they first grew in the place where St. Peter dropped the keys to Heaven. Cowslip is actually used as a herbal remedy, known to be effective against stress hysteria. They are known to be anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and good as antihistamines. For more about Cowslips, follow this link.
3 – Lesser Celandine – The name Celandine is based on a Greek word, chelidon, which means Swallow. Like this bird, Lesser Celandine is a messenger of Spring, (although the Swallow appears much later), known to flower as early as mid February, and will continue to flower into May.
Lesser Celandine create a vibrant yellow carpet, especially beneath the bare trees of woodland, but the plants grow across the UK in many differing locales. These beauties, with their star-shaped flowers and dark green leaves, were a favourite of Wordsworth, the poet,. His poem, and more about the Lesser Celandine, can be found here.
4 – Ramsons – Officially named Allium Ursinum, this plant is most commonly known as Wild Garlic due to its pungent smell when crushed. It is indeed a member of the onion family and displays its white blooms from April onward. Another star-shaped flower, this time white, ramsons grows across the country and prefers shady, damp growing conditions, woodland being perfect.
This is another UK Spring wildflower which is useful in everyday life. The bulbs are used in cooking, the leaves in salads. Over the years the plant has been used medically for asthma, rheumatism, and high blood pressure. More about the plant can be found here.
5 – Primrose – When these pretty, pale yellow blooms appear, Spring is definitely underway. Growing close to the ground in circular clumps, the native primrose often blooms around the same time as the first daffodils, flowering from March to May.
They like acidic soil, preferring the dampness of woodlands or shady grassed areas. Primulas are yet one more native species which has both medicinal uses, and can be eaten in salads or made into teas. For more information about the primrose, try this link.
Spring is a riot of colour across the Uk due to the abundance of native wildflowers. For more of the most common species, take a look at this pretty and informative video.