This page is an attempt to list, in order of flowering times, the flowers and grasses which I’ve found in our 11 acres of meadows. Beginning with flowers seen in 2015, or earlier. When we started our meadow restoration, (in June 2013), very few of the flowers listed below were growing in what historically had been heavily sheep-grazed, or soft-rush-infested pastures, which were predominantly lush tall grass, come mid-summer, as shown below:Some flowering plants have appeared spontaneously, and many have been introduced by using collected seeds. This is a work in progress as new species seem to pop up every year, and since the summer months are always very busy, it’s tricky to spend much time cataloguing everything, and I’m afraid the list is rather lacking in grass identifications. The story of the journey of restoring our hay meadows can be found by clicking here on the separate “meadow musings” web page.
However, still images and text are a very poor alternative to actually spending time in such a meadow, and experiencing the sights, sounds and even smells. The short compilation YouTube videos, below, of our upper hay meadow, attempt to capture some of these scenes, from late June and mid-July 2021, and repeated in mid-June and July 2022. All wildflower hay meadows are uniquely different in their plant mixes, and they all seem to change significantly from year to year, as plants spontaneously move around, and wax and wane in numbers, but for the first time in our long journey of trying to increase meadow diversity, of both plants, animals and fungi, I’ve been really delighted by their vibrancy.
It’s worth watching in HD mode, by changing your YouTube settings.
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. Apparently, there are 240 to 250 variants of the common dandelion, which I am unable to identify in more detail. Usually the first plant to flower in our meadows, sometimes in early March. An invaluable early nectar and pollen source for many native bees, like the Ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria, and Gooden’s nomad bee, Nomada goodeniana, shown below, as well as honey bees and bumble bees.
Common Dog Violet, Viola riviniana. Initially stablished in a swathe on a South facing steep section of our upper hay meadow where the soil is thin having been scraped off 20 years ago to fill in a track through the field. They’re now becoming much more widespread across the whole meadow.
Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris. Low growing and in April, the upper hay meadow becomes covered with these flower heads with conspicuous pale yellow anthers before most other grasses have even started into leaf growth.Lady’s Smock, or Cuckoo Flower, Cardamine pratensis. One of the prettiest early flowers. Still slowly bulking up in numbers with us. Favoured by the Orange-tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines, as a nectar source and larval food plant. Lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica. Flowering for the first time in 2015, and introduced as a seed from a friend’s meadow nearby, 3 years previously. Pretty pale pink flowers, low to the ground, toothed leaves. Now widespread in both our hay meadows, and acts like yellow rattle as a vital hemi-parasitic plant, in a meadow community for increasing diversity by weakening the strength of other grasses and plants. Loved by early bumblebees as a valuable nectar source.
Marsh Marigold, Kingcup, Caltha palustris. A real splash of gold, like a big buttercup, but in early April. Along boggy edges to our lower meadow ditches, and the far side of our stream beneath trees. Round-leaved Crowfoot, Ranunculus omiophyllus. A new flower, which was found in 2015, in the shallow peaty channels which we dug out of the ditches meandering across our big wet meadow. Attractive glossy green leaves, with white buttercup-type flowers.Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Veronica serpyllifolia. A low growing, creeping perennial with shiny leaves, and early flowering, in several of our fields.
Snakeshead Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris. Introduced as some bought-in bulbs in 2019, few survived into 2022 after the dry summers of 2021 and 2022. However collected seed was slit trench sown and has germinated, so maybe the future will see the occasional flower hanging on in the upper hay meadow.
May sees a big explosion in new flowers opening, along with many from April still flowering:
Bugle, Ajuga reptans. A purple leaved form of this native, introduced by scattering seeds. I finally got round to including images of the foliage. (Flower images in situ, again much loved particularly by bumblebees, will have to wait until 2023!). The present flower image is from the garden where it’s widely grown as an insect friendly ground cover plant.
Silverweed: Potentilla anserina. The only common yellow flower with silvery pinnate leaves. Shown below with Germander Speedwell, and a rather raggedy yellow flower.
Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys. Wonderful bright blue flowers, with creeping stems. Shown here with Lousewort.Daisy, Bellis perennis. Pink tipped classic small daisy flowers. We all know and love them.Common Mouse-Ear, Cerastium fontanum. Sprawling perennial with hairy leaves. A definite problem weed in the garden, being tricky to trace back and root out. But in the meadows, it drifts into the background, and will re-flower later in the season after early cutting for hay. Pignut, Conopodium majus. A slender early white umbellifer arising from a brown round tuber, which is apparently edible for people as well as pigs! For years, I’ve worked to collect seeds and spread them around within the field. It’s now paying off, with the flowers becoming more widespread.
Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. This commonly recommended hemi-parasitic flowering annual is used to weaken grasses in a sward and allow other wildflowers a chance to establish. Within a few years it can blanket cover a field. As with the perennial pink Lousewort, it’s a very popular nectar source for some bumblebee species, and honey bees.Sweet Vernal grass, Anthoxanthum odoratum. The clue is in the names, both scientific and common. An early flowering widespread short grass in our hay meadow. The preponderance of this gives our freshly mown hay its distinctive sweet smell. Even if it doesn’t pack the nutritional punch of perennial ryegrass, which forms the basis of many contemporary commercial grass seed mixes.
Birds-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus. Beginning to flower in mid-May, this pretty low-growing legume has deep yellow keeled flowers, with red or orange tips when young. The plant is one of the larval foodplants for the Common Blue butterfly larvae, and the flowers are visited by bumblebees and honey bees.
Bitter Vetchling, Lathyrus linifolius. Another perennial legume, which usually beats Birds-foot trefoil with its first flowers, it has these stunning magenta flowers opening along slender stems which add dots of colour as the plant scrambles through the growing grasses. The flowers fade to a bluish purple. Reddish brown seed pods which mature to black follow, and as you might detect, I’m becoming such a fan of this plant, that I plan to introduce it into our diverse planting mix in the multicultural magic terrace garden this year. It can lift any mix of flowers with its jewel-like magic. Were you so bothered, apparently its tubers can be eaten and have an appetite suppressant action – not something I’ve ever been concerned with.Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa. More vigorous than sheep’s sorrel, which flowers later in June, and is shorter. The sheep clearly love the acid taste of the leaves, since they graze the aftermath regrowth down to root level in winter, but as a tough perennial it grows back strongly. The reward in mid-summer are these wonderful reddish copper flowers, and then seed heads held above the grasses, and transforming the meadow into a dancing rusty vista, as the sun sinks low in the evening in mid-June, through to cutting. This is one of those plants which early on dominated our upper hay meadow, but as more plant diversity has appeared, or for other unknown reasons, its numbers have declined dramatically.
Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella. Shown in these photos as aftermath re-growth in July, this is a shorter version of common sorrel with flowers which are small and greenish-red. The leaves are arrow-shaped at the base with side-lobes spreading or pointing forwards, not so obvious in these images.
Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris. The tallest and earliest buttercup to flower in our hay meadow. The scientific name again gives a clue, that buttercups aren’t that tasty as far as livestock are concerned, but it’s popular with many insects.Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens. Another flowering plant disliked by sheep, but with pollen beloved by the micro-moth Micropterix calthella – see below. One of our most reviled weeds in the garden, because of its ‘repens’ habit of running beneath other plants. And needing a fork to hoik out its multi-rooted anchors. But adding a golden glow to many hay meadows in late May/June. Ribwort/Lanceolate Plantain, Plantago lanceolata. A fairly short perennial plant with distinctive erect stubby flower and then seed spikes. A plant with wonderful anti-inflammatory properties, and one which recovers from cutting and drought, much faster than the grasses, thanks to its deeper root systems, so of real value, in the hotter drier summers we now seem to experience.
Common Cotton-grass, Eriophorum angustifoium (probable). Growing predominantly around the fringes of our upper pond.
Unknown sedge grass.Another unknown sedge grass. Water Forget-me-not, Myositis scopioides. (Several Foreget-me-nots are very similar, so I may have the wrong species). Appearing extensively in 2016 in our lower wet meadows. A beautiful clear pale blue colour, with a yellow eye, it tends to be a low-growing sprawling plant along ditches but also throughout the wetter sections of pasture. Bitter Vetchling, Lathyrus linifolius. One of my favourite meadow flowers, with pretty magenta pink flowers along slender stems. The green seedpods mature to brown then black, before splitting and flinging out the seeds.
Pignut, Conopodium majus .More obvious as flowering peaks in early June, this shortish plant has usually finished flowering by mid-June, and then sets seeds. The earliest white umbellifer to flower in our meadows.
Water-pepper, Persicaria hydropiper, is a floppy, lax plant which tends to appear in our lower wet meadow in areas where the grass cover has been removed after, say, a bonfire, or feeding hay, the previous year. The leaves have a characteristic peppery taste.
Birds-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus. Lower growing and earlier flowering than our other form L. pedunculatus, which often doesn’t flower until the end of June. Honey bees and bumbles visit the flowers as do Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths, Zygaena lonicerae, which use the plant as a larval food source. It contains low levels of cyanide, and the striking markings of the moth are probably a warning to any predators, that it doesn’t taste nice. Being a leguminous plant it also fixes nitrogen within the pasture. Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris. The tallest flowering buttercup, with its yellow flowers waving above the height of most flowering grass heads, and having quite finely cut lobed leaves. Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi. Found in areas of our lower wet meadows, and along ditch margins.
Heath Bedstraw, Galium saxatile. A sprawling relative of the much larger and weed like goosegrass or cleavers. This has a much prettier flower.
Heath Spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata, Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. We now have (in June 2022) about 500 orchids in our hay meadows, a huge increase from a single one found in 2015. Orchids hybridise freely, so this is my best guess at a species name, though it could also have common spotted or early marsh orchid influences. They vary tremendously in the richness of colour, height, flowering time, and whether or not the leaves have any spots on them. At this rate of spread, and after a wonderful seed set, in both 2021 and 2022, I’m hopeful we’ll be well above 1000 in another few years’ time.
Eyebright, Euphrasia nemorosa spp. Like yellow rattle, another annual, hemi-parasitic plant which weakens the growth of other grasses. There are many subspecies with very minor differences in flower markings. Some locally sourced seed was introduced in 2015, and the first few plants were found in 2016 in our top, hay, meadow. By 2021 much of the meadow has carpets of these pretty flowers, in many colour variants. A plant I love to collect as seed from variants around the country.
Cat’s-ear, Hypochaeris radicata. There is a wide range of hawkweeds and hawkbits that are quite tricky to differentiate. Fairly tall yellow flowers, usually taller than dandelions, on thin branching wiry stems arising from typical rosettes of leaves. Typically the leaves are hairy, and sometimes the flower stems, which also have occasional small bracts which gives the plant its name. Becoming a signature plant for now in our lower hay meadow, and recovers to flower well, after an early hay cut.
Red Clover, Trifolium pratense. Less common in the meadows at present than white clover, this is another nitrogen-fixing plant which has flowers visited by long-tongued bumblebees, but not honey bees. The leaves have a distinctive, paler chevron-shaped mark at their centre. White Clover, Trifolium repens. The most common clover, and being leguminous, is another nitrogen-fixing plant, which spreads extensively, particularly in shorter grass. Honey bees and shorter-tongued bumblebees visit the flowers.
Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. An annual hemi-parasitic flower which continues to flower throughout June, and is an extremely vigorous and a prolific seeder. It nevertheless seems to grow much shorter in areas where it has grown densely the year before. The flowers are visited by many bumblebees, butterflies and honey bees.
Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris. Widespread in the garden, and a few plants are now occurring in the hay meadow, particularly where the grass is thinnest, after collecting and spreading saved seed from the garden. A flower favoured by bumblebees.
Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa. The most common sorrel in our meadows. Taller, earlier flowering and seeding than the smaller sheep’s sorrel. The developing seed heads produce a wonderful red haze over our hay meadow in late June. Seeds and leaves have a distinctive sharp tang and can even be used in the kitchen. Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre. Our most common thistle here, which can potentially become an invasive problem ‘weed’ in our fields, particularly our wetter meadows. It nevertheless is a valuable nectar source for many butterflies, like the Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina, below, and grows as a tall single-stemmed biennial growing from a basal rosette of leaves formed in its first year. Over the years we’ve reduced its numbers dramatically by hoeing it out, before flowering time – there are masses in surrounding fields for invertebrates which value the flowers, as a nectar source.
Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea. A very pretty, small-flowered stitchwort, with thin sprawling stems which has begun to appear in our top hay meadow since 2015, and in 2016 in our lower wet meadows.
Black Medic, Medicago lupulina, A small flowered member of the clover family, almost a cross between a clover and a bird’s-foot trefoil. A very low growing plant which is easily missed, but is another valuable nitrogen fixer, and bees will visit the tiny flowers.
Crested Dog’s-tail grass, Cynosurus cristatus. Not one of the most common grasses in our meadows, but distinctive, and flowering in June to August. The flowers and seeds open in one plane, on one side of the stem, producing this sort of herringbone pattern of developing seed heads.Bog Pimpernel, Anagellis tenella. New in our wet meadow for 2016, this lovely prostrate creeping plant has pretty pink flowers in profusion, which some bumblebees seem to love visiting. The pale pink flowers only open in the sunshine, being stronger pink when closed. The small paired opposite, rounded leaves are mid-green and form along creeping stems.
Yorkshire-fog, Holcus lanatus.
A tall, tufted grass up to 1 m, with a soft hairy down appearance on leaves and stems throughout, the flowers have a typical purplish pink tinge, especially when young. The base of the stem has a striped pink appearance. One of the more thug like grasses which exclude other plants, but fortunately it seems to be knocked back by Yellow rattle, so now most common around un-mown ditches, and un-cut margins.
Fox-and-Cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, An orange, perennial hawkweed with hairy leaves on spreading runners, from which the flowers grow on tall stems. Introduced years ago by us, as locally collected seed from a sunny dry spot, to help stabilise and cover a dry bank. It enjoys mixing with the Cat’s-ears in our top meadow.
Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bermudiana, has established as a few plants in our upper meadow after scattering seeds from the garden. It’s another plant which will recover and flower after an early hay cut.
Common Valerian, Valeriana officinalis. This grows in our wetter, lower hay meadow in an uncut area, and begins to bloom at the end of June. Lovely pale pink/lilac flowers which attract the burnet moths, as they begin to emerge at a similar time.
Perennial ryegrass, Lolium perenne. Much favoured for grassland “improvement” in more recent times, this very productive and fast growing grass easily outcompetes many traditional meadow flowering plants. Fortunately we have very little of it in just a few areas of our meadows.
Many July flowering plants are tricky to incorporate into hay meadows unless one cuts the meadow, or at least part of it late in the month, or beyond into August, since seed won’t have formed before then. In our case, cutting with a power scythe we can easily avoid individual plants of clumps, and eventually mowing in strips across the field should allow at least some of these flowers to seed every year.
Marsh Willowherb, Epilobium palustre Common in our lower wet meadow in the damper areas with distinctive nodding flower heads.
Soft-rush, Juncus effusus. A tough dominant plant which we spent many years trying to reduce in numbers in our lower meadows, since it had become a near mono-culture, excluding almost all other plants. See below for how we did this. Can be differentiated from the less problematic sharp-flowered rush by the denser, more spreading splayed clump, the flower and seed head, and the lack of any walls/septa, in the stem.
Sharp-flowered Rush, Juncus acutiflorus. A less vigorous form of rush which the sheep will eat right down, whilst the foliage is young. Common in the lower, wet meadows and spreads through seed and rhizomes. Has a more open, less dense form, and distinctive stem septal walls which can be seen, or felt, by running the stem between finger and thumb.
Tufted Hair-grass, Deschampsia cespitosa. Potentially a large, densely tufted grass forming thick tussocks up to 1.2 m tall. The leaves have strong parallel ridges and furrows on the upper side. The flowers open to light spreading airy structures. Now much less dominant in our lower meadows, after managing the soft rush.
Melancholy Thistle, Cirsium rivulare, is a stunning occasional find in meadows, more typically in the North of England. After collecting some seeds, growing on the young plants (and discovering that slugs love the small seedlings), eventually, in 2022, we had our first 2 flowers in the upper meadow and even managed a photo with a butterfly nectaring on one.
Devil’s-bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis, is a very difficult plant to incorporate into hay meadows unless one cuts really late. Or finds an earlier flowering clone, which is what I managed to do from a local meadow before our friends moved on. Growing it on as plugs, we now have it along with the more usual later flowering form, growing in areas, or ditch margins where I can leave it alone until late August, and keep harvesting seed manually to spread it around a bit more. We also now grow it in the garden where it is loved by many insects for its nectar and pollen.
Betony, Stachys officinalis, is a gorgeous plant flowering throughout July, and almost as intense a colour hit as orchids in the meadow. Appreciated by many insects as a nectar source. We use it in the garden as well and save as much seed as possible to scatter around or grow on as small plugs to plant out.
Wood Crane’s-bill, Geranium sylvaticum, is another meadow plant more commonly found in Northern meadows, but slowly establishing here from collected seed, and small plug plants, giving a wonderful dash of intense small blue flowers, often with a white eye. Selecting plants which flower early helps with seed set before the hay is cut.
Greater burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis, is a stunning visual late addition to a meadow, with its dark claret pompoms of flowers and seed heads. Like many meadow plants, the ‘officinalis’ part of the name indicates a medicinal value, still being widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Common Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, is a fabulous favoured late-season nectar flower valued by many different insects, and later by birds for its seeds. Usually by mid-August, ‘charms’ of Goldfinches descend to feed on the developing seed heads in sunshine or rain.
Wild Angelica, Angelica sylvestris, is a tall, late flowering umbellifer, striking in flower typically with purple stems and leaf bases, which grows in wetter parts of our lower meadow and ditch edges.
Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus, is larger and usually later flowering than the shorter common bird’s-foot trefoil. Another nitrogen fixer, with flowers appreciated by honey and bumblebees.
Meadow Vetchling, Lathyrus pratensis, is an occasional finding in the upper meadow around fences where at first sight the flowers look a little like Greater bird’s-foot trefoil, but the narrow and angular leaves distinguish it, and it tends to be more straggly, and never seems to produce many seed pods.
Whorled Caraway, Carum verticillatum, is slowly establishing in the meadows. It’s the county flower of Carmarthenshire, and the flowers look very like Pignut, and are of similar height, but it flowers much later in the season and has less obvious, feathery foliage.
Rosebay Willowherb, Chamaenerion angustifolium, thrives on edges of some of the meadows. When it flowers, following on just as the brable flowers finish, we have very few honeybees in the garden, since there is a whole meadow nearby filled with these flowers. A huge nectar and pollen resource for them.
Great Willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum, is a bold, tall willowherb growing along ditches in the lower wet meadow, and like Rosebay willowherb spreads by both rhizomes and seed, and its flowers are loved by honey bees.
Hawkweed Oxtongue, Picris hieracioides, is a tall hawkweed-like yellow flower, which flowers on a single stem, branched terminally and it begins flowering in very late July/August. Growing in a few places on the periphery of our upper hay meadow.
Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, is a shade-loving, tall-flowered orchid which I’ve found on a few occasions in the Northern margin of our upper hay meadow beneath mature ash trees. However it hasn’t appeared over the last few years.
Purple Moor-grass – Molinia caerulea. A clump/tussock forming grass favouring wet upland ‘rhos’ type pastures, and found in the damper areas of our lower meadows. The flowers emerge purple black, late in the season, and gradually expand to become more open. Quite a dominant species due to its size, and we aim to cut and remove the fawn, dead foliage in late winter/early spring and use it as bedding if get a dry spell in February/March.
Ivy-leaved Bellflower, Wahlenbergia hederacea, is another late flowering, easily missed, low-growing plant with tiny blue campanula-like flowers. It forms spreading mats in a few damper places in our lower wet meadows, in spite of intermittent, regular sheep grazing of these pastures through much of the year. This is a nationally quite rare plant and it’s always a delight to find it so late in the season.