Wildflowers are an essential part of a woodland’s ecosystem. In the UK, wildflowers emerge earlier in the year before the trees have a full covering of leaves and block most of the light to the woodland floor. In spring and summer, British woodlands are a delight to see, due to the spectacular displays of flowers, from carpets of bluebells to bright bursts of foxgloves and wood anemones.
Here are some of the more common wildflowers you may find in woodlands near you in the coming spring and summer:
One of the main signs of spring for many is the appearance of bluebells, with their vibrant blue-purple flowers carpeting woodland floors. They are best seen during April and May, though they have been spotted earlier in many locations, depending on the weather during early spring.
Early Purple Orchid
The early purple orchid with its purple-pink flowers is one of the earliest orchids to bloom in the spring, appearing between April and June. Its primary habitats include hedgerows, ancient woodland and open grassland. Its flowers are arranged in a dense, cone-shaped cluster.
As the bluebells finish blooming, the pinky hues of red campions emerge, growing up to a metre tall. They flower in woodlands between May and September, giving you plenty of time to spot the plant. The red campion can be identified by its pink-red flowers with five petals with a deep notch. It has been known to hybridise with the white campion if they are growing close together.
As the name suggests, you’ll likely smell garlic mustard before you see it, with its pungent aroma of garlic. The small white flowers like to grow in shady spots in the wood and along hedgerows and are also known as jack-by-the-hedge and hedge garlic. The flowers open in April and peak flowering is around mid-May.
The wood anemone is another major sign of spring, cropping up in ancient deciduous woodlands between March and May. They sport white petals with a pinkish tinge, as well as striking bright yellow anthers in the middle. They thrive in dappled sunlight and are also planted in parks, gardens and graveyards.
Throughout April and May, Britain’s ancient woodlands are covered in the white starry flowers of ramsons, which also give off a garlic smell. Also known as wild garlic, the leaves and roots of ramsons can be eaten. It flowers early in the year, to make the most of the sunlight before the tree canopy becomes too thick.
Lords-and-ladies have a distinct look; the arrow-shaped leaves curl around a long inner spike which carries tiny yellow or purple flowers. The spike then produces a stalk of bright red berries. They are common across the UK and can be seen in April and May. Later in the spring, you can easily spot the flower amongst the dark leaf litter. Other names include cuckoo-pint, snakeshead and adder’s root.
A widespread European wildflower, the yellow archangel spreads easily and so is often also used as ornamental ground cover, taking over from bluebells in late spring. Sporting soft yellow flowers, the petals emerge in clusters from beneath a larger overarching hood.
Wood-sorrel is a delicate woodland plant with eye-catching white flowers with purple veins that close up at night. Blooming in April and May, wood-sorrel often grows from the moss spreading on fallen logs. Seeing this wildflower in a wood indicates its old age.
The wild strawberry plant produces miniature versions of the red fruit, and its flowers are white with five petals and a golden centre. Flowering between April and July, the red fruits follow. The plant can be found in open woodland, chalky downlands and scrubland.
Appearing from May to September, the pretty lesser stitchwort with its star-shaped white flowers can be seen in woodlands, hedgerows, meadows and roadside verges. The flowers measure about 1cm, and the greater stitchwort flowers are between 2cm and 3cm.
Flowering from June to September, the eye-catching foxglove is one of the most widespread summer wildflowers, found in heaths, hedgerows and on the edges of woodlands. Foxglove flowers are tube-shaped, with pink-purple petals and darker coloured spots towards the bottom. You are likely to see a bee poking out collecting the pollen.
Keep an eye out for the pinky-white flowers of the dog-rose in hedgerow scrub and woodlands. One of the prettiest wildflowers, it blooms in May and June and is one of the most common of the native wild roses in the UK. Giving off a sweet smell, it produces red rosehips in autumn eaten by birds and small mammals.
The hairy plant with rounded leaves and clusters of pinky-white flowers is best seen from June to August. Despite its name, enchanter’s nightshade is part of the willowherb family and can be found in woodlands and hedgerows. In gardens, it is often considered a weed.
Honeysuckle is one of the sweetest smelling wildflowers and can climb up to 6m high by wrapping itself around trees and shrubs. Appearing from June to September, honeysuckle has cream trumpet-like flowers with orange or red ends. The plant is also a haven for insects, birds and small mammals who nest in it or use it as a source of good.
What wildflowers do you enjoy seeing when out and about in Britain’s woodland throughout spring and summer? We are sure you, like us, are looking forward to the warm weather arriving along with the colours it brings! When heading into the countryside, make sure you have some quality outdoor gear such as our men’s and ladies shootings clothing.