Tag Archives: Summer wildflowers

Happy Summer Solstice!

Summer Solstice Flowers

I thought I’d share some seasonally Summer wildflowers to celebrate this year’s Summer Solstice.

Happy Summer Solstice! 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

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Greater Stitchwort's starry flowers

When I grow up, I’m going to be a …

As we were taking one of our regular woodland walks this weekend, we couldn’t help but see that the woodland floor is now growing abundantly with wildflowers. There are carpets of Greater Stitchwort – that’s the white flowers in my header image. I think it lives up to its Latin name: Stellaria holostea. The bright white flowers really are like myriads of little stars.

I found myself noticing not only the plants that were actually flowering, but also those that were still pouring all of their energies into growing and had yet to flower. I decided to photograph some of the yet-to-flower plants I spotted and make it into a fun quiz. Here are my woodland wildflowers.

Can you identify the wild flowers I spotted?

A fun quiz – featuring some common flowering plants you might see in UK woodlands just at the moment.

Mystery wildflower No. 1

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.1 is a spiky character, tall and lanky. The purplish tinges to the stems and leaves might help you to imagine it in flower.

Mystery wildflower No. 2

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.2 with its oval fleshy leaves. Its immediate environment might tell you where this plant likes to live and that’s a bit of a clue to its name too.

Mystery wildflower No. 3

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.3 is a very common plant of waysides and scrubland, not just in woodlands. It’s another tall-growing robust plant that’s very popular with insects, though I’m not sure about pigs!

Mystery wildflower No. 4

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.4 is one of the archetypal woodland flowers of early Summer for me, though its bright flowers are very delicate.

Mystery wildflower No. 5

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.5 is a nice easy one. Just look at those fat and fluffy flower buds ready to burst open!

Mystery wildflower No. 6

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.6 is one of favourite flowers of late Spring and early Summer. I love its clean and sunny nature.

… and finally – a mystery seedling

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

My children have always noticed these little seedling plants on the woodland floor. Those enormous seed leaves always look to me like an umbrella. Its fully grown parent makes a rather good umbrella when we’ve been caught out by a sudden Summer rain storm too.

How many of my mystery plants can you name? Please leave your answers in a comment on this post. I think all of the plants I’ve chosen have featured in previous posts on my blog … complete with their flowers. I’ll post up photos of the plants with their flowers and name them all next Monday. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the Summer rain storm ‘umbrella’ to show you too 🙂

Have fun with the quiz!

J Peggy Taylor

Purple flowers of Rosebay Willowherb

Purple Wildflowers of Summer

Every season has its dominant colour in the UK’s wildflower calendar and the colour of Summer for me is definitely purple. A myriad of tonal variations of purple, contrasting beautifully against their accompanying greens, add so much to Nature’s Summer palette.

Purple flowers of Summer - Rosebay and Thistle
Small Tortoiseshell at the Nectar Cafe … aka Creeping Thistle. That’s some spikes of Rosebay Willowherb behind too.

The thistle family give us some beautiful purples and with their soft tufted flowers are very popular with butterflies and other insects. Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, in particular – whilst you might not want to be introducing it into your garden, we find is a very popular nectar cafe where butterflies and their ‘friends’ love to meet and linger – which is ideal for slow photographers like me!

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

Another member of the thistle family that we find is much loved by bees and hoverflies is Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra. Many of our family’s ‘bee-on-a-flower’ photos feature the purple tufted flowers of Common Knapweed. So you could say, it is popular with us too! The deep cerise-purple of this grassland wildflower is one of my favourite shades of purple.

Here are two thistles that live up to their traditional spiny thistle appearance while also adding to Summer’s purple display.

The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland
The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland

The tall, slender Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustre decorates the stream banks and other damp areas in our woods with its deep purple tufted flowers.

Spear Thistle, or as we call it, the Scotch Thistle
Spear Thistle, or as we call it, the Scotch Thistle

The Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare is a sturdy plant with grey-green stems and leaves that contrast beautifully with its purple flowers. I call it the Spear Thistle, as this is formally its correct name. But we have always called it the “Scotch Thistle”, as this flower is the national emblem of Scotland. Though apparently this species is by no means the only thistle that claims to be the true Scottish Thistle!

Two more purple flowering Summer stalwarts that grow quite ubiquitously in our local area are Rosebay Willowherb and wild Foxgloves. You can see the tall purple spikes of Rosebay Willowherb in the photo at the top of this post … and some more growing near the Creeping Thistle that I showed above too. Some areas of disturbed ground can become overrun with Rosebay Willowherb – it is hardly surprising given each plant produces something like 80,000 seeds! The 20th century botanist and ecologist, Sir Edward Salisbury, noted that Rosebay Willowherb “empurpled” London’s bomb sites in World War II.

My first Foxglove of the Summer
My first Foxglove of the Summer – growing on a local spoil heap

Wild Foxgloves are one of my own personal notifier species. I consider them a sign of the arrival of Summer and watch out for the first ones flowering each year. This year I spotted my first flowering Foxglove on 6th June, growing on an old coal mining spoil heap we often climb when out on one of our regular walks. This heap supports an interesting variety of flora and fauna, despite its industrial heritage.

Wild Foxglove in woodland
One of my son’s close-ups of a wild Foxglove growing in our local woods

Vetches are another family of wildflowers that contribute to the Summer purples. On a coastal walk recently I spotted a good number of my favourite vetch, Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca, with its dense spikes of blue-purple flowers. This cliff-top purple patch was especially noticeable.

Purple patch of Tufted Vetch growing on the cliff top
Purple patch of Tufted Vetch growing on the cliff top at South Shields Leas

Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica is a plant that you often notice with your nose before you see it with your eyes.

Hedge Woundwort
Hedge Woundwort

Its distinctive but not-very-pleasant smell is a common feature of the dense wayside greenery in our woods where we find it growing with many other wildflowers among the grasses and nettles. The reddish-purple flowers of Hedge Woundwort grow in a spike at the top of a single stem.

My final purple flower of Summer for this post features another landscape I love – heather-covered moorland. When the Bell Heather Erica cinerea blooms on the moorland, we can see it miles away across the valley – it literally turns the landscape purple. Here’s a closer look. This photo was taken while we were out on a Summer hike.

Purple heather moors in Summer
When the Bell Heather’s in bloom the moor takes on a purple tinge

There are so many wildflowers we see that contribute to the purple of Summer. Purple is definitely the colour of Summer for me.

J Peggy Taylor

Dog Roses

Spotting Summer wildflowers

Our Summer woodlands are painted with an artist’s palette of wild flowers and greenery. Wherever we walk, our senses are treated to a kaleidoscope of colours and scents.

On this occasion our walk took us along a favourite path that is always rather wet and muddy. Either side of the narrow woodland path, the tumble of undergrowth was dotted with the bright pinks of Herb Robert, the purples of Tufted Vetch, the pastel pinks of Dog Roses, the bright yellows of Buttercups, the creamy whites of Honeysuckle and the lofty white umbels of Hogweed.

However, this time I decided to seek out some of the less obvious flowers to share with you.

Brooklime - the puddle flower

This is Brooklime Veronica beccabunga. I love that Latin name – I think it sounds like it should be the name of a character in a Roald Dahl story!
Brooklime belongs to the Speedwell family and has a small bright blue flower with a pale greenish-white centre, fairly typical of Speedwells. However, unlike other Speedwells it is likely to be the fleshy green oval leaves you’d notice first.

Brooklime flowers
Brooklime flowers

The delicate Brooklime flowers grow in pairs from the leaf axils and I always feel look rather small for the size of the leaves. As its name suggests, Brooklime grows in marshy places. Our patch here grows in a very muddy spot and is often part of a puddle.

Meadowsweet - close-up

At the next path junction I smelled a tell-tale Summer smell and soon spotted some stems of Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria with their fluffy sprays of creamy flowers. It was from these flowers that this distinctive scent was drifting. In some parts of our woods Meadowsweet grows in swathes but here there were only a few stems.

Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet

They had sprung through a bare patch of earth bank on the side of a drainage ditch, dug as part of some footpath repair work earlier in the year. It will be lovely to see a little colony of these flowers developing along this muddy ditch. Meadowsweet is another plant that likes to grow in damp and marshy places.

Common Marsh Bedstraw
Common Marsh Bedstraw

On the other side of the path I spotted some straggling stems of the delicate Common Marsh-Bedstraw Galium palustre, growing through the path-side vegetation. As you’d expect, the ‘Marsh’ in this plant’s name confirms the habitat in which it grows. Similarly to other Bedstraw species, the leaves of Common Marsh-Bedstraw grow in whorls around the stem. Its 4-petalled white flowers grow in small clusters. Unlike some ‘little white flower’ species, the flowers of this Bedstraw are quite sculptured and well-defined. I love the curve of the petals – they look like tiny sugar flowers.

Common Figwort
Common Figwort

Another plant that was re-establishing itself on the side of the drainage ditch was Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa. This curious flower is another inhabitant of damp woodlands. It is unusual in having square stems and Figwort flowers are quite odd too.

Common Figwort - square stem
Square stem of Common Figwort

The flower buds are globular but then the ‘upper lip’ opens like a mouth to reveal its maroon throat and a yellow ‘tongue’!

Common Figwort - flower close-up
Common Figwort flower

My son said it reminded him of a mini version of the Pitcher plant we’ve seen in botanic gardens. However, unlike the Pitcher plant, I don’t believe Figwort is carnivorous! We see lots of it in our woods, especially along the verges of the wide woodland rides where its moist habitat is often found.

Heath Speedwell - close-up
Heath Speedwell

Along the path edge I spotted some pale blue spikes of Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis. On closer inspection you can see the pale blue flowers of Heath Speedwell also have violet veins running through them. The soft furry leaves are spoon-shaped with a serrated edge. I love the shape of the pale violet flower buds with their protective green sepals. Heath Speedwell is a grassland flower but we often find it along woodland rides too.

I must give credit to my son for the photos in this post. His efforts to capture images of small flowers in difficult lighting conditions are usually more successful than mine 🙂

J Peggy Taylor