How to identify early spring blooms

Know your speedwell from your scurvy-grass? Our guide will help you to identify the first of our spring wildflowers.

Flowering currant

                                                                                         lllustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

1. Flowering currant (above) Ribes sanguineum

Trusses of musky, rose-pink flowers appear as leaves unfurl. Occasional garden escape and often planted.                             



2. Cherry plum Prunus cerasifera

An orchard escape or planted tree, often mistaken for blackthorn (but flowers earlier). Hedges and verges.



3. Goat willow (sallow) Salix caprea

Male catkins (‘pussy willow’) are golden; females are dull green. Woods, waste ground, riverbanks.



4. Common gorse Ulex europaeus

Coconut-scented; can be found blooming year-round. Rough ground, moors and commons.



5. Spurge laurel Daphne laureola

Sweet-smelling flowers, often hidden by leathery leaves with waxy texture. Chalk or limestone woods.



6. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis

Carpets floors of woods on clay or limestone. Spreads by rhizomes. Woods and older hedgerows.



7. Shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris

Flowers all winter; self-pollinating. Purse-shaped seed capsules. Field edges, gardens and waste ground.



8. Field speedwell Veronica persica

Native to south-west Asia; first UK record in 1825. Big sky-blue flowers all winter. Fields and gardens.



9. Red dead-nettle Lamium purpureum

Rounded lobes to stalked leaves distinguish it from similar species. Annual of arable fields and gardens.



10. Butterbur Petasites hybridus

Stubby male flower spikes appear just before the huge leaves. Damp roadsides and stream valleys.



11. Winter heliotrope Petasites fragrans

Vanilla-scented flowers and broad leaves, smaller than those of butterbur. Verges and hedgerows.



12. Danish scurvy-grass Cochlearia danica

A coastal plant once eaten by sailors as a vitamin C source. Salt-tolerant, spreading rapidly along gritted roads.


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