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.

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All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

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1. Flowering currant (above) Ribes sanguineum

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

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2. Cherry plum Prunus cerasifera

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

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3. Goat willow (sallow) Salix caprea

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

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4. Common gorse Ulex europaeus

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

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5. Spurge laurel Daphne laureola

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

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6. Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis

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

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7. Shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris

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

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8. Field speedwell Veronica persica

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

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9. Red dead-nettle Lamium purpureum

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

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10. Butterbur Petasites hybridus

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

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11. Winter heliotrope Petasites fragrans

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

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12. Danish scurvy-grass Cochlearia danica

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