I’m listing here, 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), almost none of the flowers below were ever seen in these more heavily sheep-grazed, or soft-rush infested pastures. This is a work in progress as new species seem to pop up every year, and since the summer months are always very busy, I shall add images to this folder, and hopefully get round to naming them later on in the year. 2021 at last sees me beginning to try to re-work this page, from its inadequate first effort, as the year progresses.
But still images and text are a very inadequate alternative to actually spending time in such a meadow, and experiencing the sights, sounds and even smells. The short compilation You Tube below, of our upper hay meadow, attempts to capture some of these scenes, from late June 2021. All wildflower hay meadows are 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 You Tube 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, sometimes in early March. An invaluable early nectar and pollen source for many native bees, and honeybees, like the Ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria, and Gooden’s nomad bee, Nomada goodeniana, shown below.
Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria. Often out as early as the first dandelions, and carpeting our steep fields on a sunny April day.Common Dog Violet, Viola riviniana. Established in a swathe on a South facing steep section of our upper hay meadow, with thin soil, having being scraped off 20 years ago to fill in a track through the field.Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris. Low growing and in April, the upper hay meadow becomes covered with these flower heads with conspicuous yellow anther, 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 seed from a friend’s meadow nearby, 3 years ago. Pretty pale pink flowers, low to the ground, toothed leaves. In our top hay meadow.Marsh Marigold, 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 found in 2015, in the shallow peaty channels 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. Low growing creeping perennial with shiny leaves, in several of our fields. May:
May sees a big explosion in new flowers opening, along with many from April still flowering:
Silverweed: Potentilla anserina. The only common yellow flower with silvery pinnate leaves. Shown below with Germander Speedwell, and a rather raggedy yellow flower.
Tormentil, Potentilla erecta. Nearly always 4 petalled yellow flowers on creeping stems.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 here drifting into the background. 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 now, I’m working to save seed and spread it around within the field.Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. The commonly recommended hemi-parasitic flowering annual used to weaken grasses in a sward and allow other wild flowers a chance to establish. But can quickly blanket the ground. As with the perennial pink Lousewort, its a very popular nectar source for some bumblebee species.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 a perennial rye grass, 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 floers, with red or orange tips when young.Bitter Vetchling, Lathyrus linifolius. Another perennial legume, which usually beats Birds-foot trefoil for 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. Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris. The tallest and earliest buttercup to flower in our hay meadow. The 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 micromoth Micropterix calthella – see below. One of 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.
Common Cotton-grass, Eriophorum angustifoium (probable). Growing predominantly around the fringes of our upper pond.
Unknown grass.Unknown grass. Water forgetmenot, Myositis scopioides. 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 .One of our earliest flowering umbellifers, this shortish plant has usually finished flowering by mid-June, and then sets seeds. Most common around the periphery of our hay meadow beneath mature ash trees, it’s also spread a little into the main section of meadow after scattering seed. 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. Heath Bedstraw, Galium saxatile.
Heath Spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata, Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. We now have ( in June 2021) about 300 orchids in our hay meadows 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 richness of colour, height, and whether or not the leaves have any spots on them. At this rate of spread, and after wonderful seed set, in 2021, I’m hopeful we’ll be well above 1000 in another few year’s time.
Eye bright, Euphrasia nemorosa spp. Like yellow rattle, another annual, hemi-parastitic 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.
Catsear, 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 wiry stems arising from typical rosettes of leaves.
Male Small skipper butterfly, Thymelicus sylvestris.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 bumble bees, but not honeybees. The leaves have a distinctive, paler chevron shaped mark at their centre. White Clover, Trifolium repens. The most common clover, and being leguminous, a nitrogen fixing plant, which spreads extensively, particularly in shorter grass. Honeybees 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 honeybees.
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. And 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.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. Crested Dog’s-tail grass, Cynosurus cristatus. Not one of the most common grasses in our meadows, but distinctive, and flowering in June. 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 with pretty pink flowers in profusion, which some bumblebees seem to love visiting. The pale pink flowers only open in sunshine, being stronger pink, when closed. The small paired opposite, rounded leaves are mid green, and form along creeping stems. Fox-and-Cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, A pretty orange perennial hawk weed with hairy leaves on spreading runners, from which the orange 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, there are now a few of these flowers popping up in our top meadow.
Common Valerian, Valeriana officinalis. This grows in our wetter, lower hay meadow in an area uncut, and begins to bloom at the end of June. Lovely pale pink/lilac flowers which attract the burnet moths, as they first emerge at a similar time.