When you are out for a walk in the British countryside, amongst its meadows and woodlands, you should look out for the vast array of wildflowers.
They can brighten up an adventure yet they also play a role in helping out the local wildlife, as well as introducing some much-needed color.
These wildflowers will provide places for insects to shelter then breed while offering food from their nectar, pollen, and leaves.
Time your British adventure for spring which is when these wildflowers announce that the seasons are changing and sunshine should be on the way. In this guide, we will detail the twelve best British wildflowers to spot on your next adventure.
Also known as: Primula vulgaris
The plucky primrose can blossom and open as early in the season as December, that’s in the most mild areas.
It is known as one of Britain’s most preferred wildflowers as the tones of yellow shoot up from larger clumps of the surrounding puckered green foliage. Aside from the typically yellow variety, look out for pink varieties which can be found in Wales.
However, if you happen to look in many shady places across Britain, as well as Ireland, you should see some primroses.
Also known as: Primula veris
Another yellow wildflower but an increasingly brilliant one, a cowslip is an unusual wildflower as it requires frost to germinate which may seem counter-productive.
Once they flower in April and May, they provide a welcome source of nectar though there is a range as to how well they can germinate.
While they may look to prefer some vast open grassland, cowslips perform better at germination when the ground is well manured or composted. That’s largely where their Old English name of cūslyppe originates from, as it translates to cow dung.
Also known as: Digitalis purpurea
While foxgloves will look glorious poking out of the undergrowth, they are also highly preferred by bees when it comes to wildflowers. In fact, foxgloves have made it even easier for bees by evolving so it is easier for the pollen to be collected.
Take a look at the wildflower’s distinctive, tube-shaped flowers which open from the bottom up. Great for honeybees, bumblebees, and moths, ingesting any part of the wildflower can result in kidney or heart problems, headaches, nausea, or diarrhea.
4. Red Clover
Also known as: Trifolium pratense
The red clover can be primarily found in meadows and lawns across Britain but also roadsides and pastures. There are other varieties but the red variety can grow up to 40cm high and comes with trefoil leaves with red and rounded flower heads.
The wildflower also acts as an excellent pollen and nectar source for bumblebees and has a pleasant odor. Its white variety is said to be a common weed yet it also proves popular when planted in wild gardens.
Also known as: Galanthus nivalis
Snowdrops act as the very first sign that winter has ended and spring is on the way to many in Britain. They are pretty difficult to miss too with their white flowers that are shaped like bells as they droop towards the ground.
You can expect to find them in the woods, along riverbanks, in parks, and across meadows. The wildflowers tend to grow in tightish clumps with three large white petals on the outside that surround three smaller petals in the inner ring.
6. Sweet Violets
Also known as: Viola odorata
Sweet violets may be small yet they do come with a strong aroma, as might be indicated by their scientific name. This is a charming wildflower that has tiny flowers bringing that aroma presented on semi-evergreen foliage.
They typically grow in sheltered areas that have light shade and can create a sweet-smelling ground cover for a rose bed. Though they spread slowly, you can still find them in woodland spaces and underneath shrubbery.
Also known as: Filipendula ulmaria
Once you see a few meadowsweet wildflowers, they can be enticing to tempt you into getting a better look.
The stunning cream-colored flowers will smell sweet though you would have to venture into wet conditions such as riverbanks and damp meadows to get close.
However pretty the flowers are, the leaves can occasionally be covered with a vivid orange fungus which almost looks like rust. As a member of the rose family, that should explain why the flowers look so pretty when they bloom from June up to September.
8. Corn Marigold
Also known as: Chrysanthemum segtum
Corn marigold should look like a daisy as it comes with a similarly bright cheerful yellow glow. Whether you find it coloring a cornfield gold during the last embers of summer or in a private garden, it is certain to brighten up your day.
The corn marigold wildflower also acts as a magnet for those insects who wish to pollinate. It is also relatively simple to plant and even kids can easily sow those seeds directly into the soil.
Also known as: Caprifoliaceae
Between the months of June and September, you may be able to spot some honeysuckle. The wildflower is known for its heralded association with superstitions so it should have some prominence in its long, champagne flute-shaped petals.
Get closer to smell their sweet aroma as it can draw in bees, especially those with long tongues who prefer the rich pollen. Alternatively, it was once planted around a home’s entrance to ward off witches.
10. Scarlet Pimpernel
Also known as: Anagallis arvensis
Yes, you may have heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel as the fictional titular character in Emma Orczy’s beloved debut novel. However, it is arguably Britain’s most delightful weed with bright red flowers (though they can be pink) around a purple center.
There are square stems and oval-pointed leaves which have black dots underneath. The low-growing wildflower can open at 8am only to close around 2pm or when the weather turns dull.
Also known as: Myosotis
You may have heard of forget-me-nots without having a sight of their gorgeous blue petals. The wildflowers tend to flower between April and June while they do come with a fascinating background.
Their name originates from Germany and a romantic tragedy where the man slips into a fast-flowing river while strolling with his lover. After being swept away, he throws a bouquet of forget-me-nots to her and then shouts, “Forget me not”.
12. Traveler’s Joy
Also known as: Clematis vitalba
Seeing some wildflowers should be a fine excuse for getting out into the fresh air so you should really look out for traveler’s joy. This is a climbing wildflower that can reach a height of three meters and more during July up to December.
It has white flowers that have a sweet smell that you can sample in woodlands. The seed heads look kinda fluffy which is why the wildflower can have the nicknames of ‘Old Man’s Beard’ and ‘Father Christmas’, even though they flower towards the end of summer.
On a bright and sunny day, it can be quite an adventure to seek out wildflowers amongst the woodlands and meadows of Britain. Take a dog and let it roam free so you can spend time looking in the undergrowth for several wildflowers.
Not only do these brighten up an adventure but they can also prove valuable to the local wildlife. They provide shelter, pollen, and nectar for several insects including honeybees and bumblebees.
There are many different types of wildflowers to look out for so keep your eyes open. They can typically indicate that spring has arrived and summer is on the way.
Whether that be via the brilliant yellow of cowslips, corn marigolds, or the subtle sky blue of forget-me-nots.
Frequently Asked Questions
One of the most, if not the most, common wildflowers to be found in Britain is the bluebell. It has the scientific name of Hyacinthoides non-scripta and can be highly recognizable.
The wildflower can be called the British bluebell and produce a huge blue-colored carpet in various woodland spots into spring. As you may expect, the brightly-colored wildflower is especially popular with bees and several other pollinators.
The ghost orchid, also known as Epigogium aphyllum, is known as one of the rarest plants in Britain. It is also one of the strangest as it does not use sunlight in order to produce food but relies on a specific type of fungi.
While it does not have any leaves or even chlorophyll, it may only emerge from the soil simply to seed and flower. The wildflower will also be tricky to spot as it is so pale and diminutive, you may even have to wait three decades before it flowers.