Top 3 wildflowers to spot this spring

Lorienne Whittle and Sophie Palmer, 01/02/2019

Delicate white snowdrops, dangling in the chilly winter breeze, bring a smile to many as one of the first signs of spring. Later in the year, a personal favourite is breathing in the sea of bluebells which carpet some of our precious ancient woodlands. What of the months between though? Springing up are blankets of charming mini sunshines and fragrant stars to feed the awakening, hungry queen bees. 

With the help of volunteer Sophie Palmer, we've set you a challenge: spot and record three common, but less familiar, native spring wildflowers, lurking in the undergrowth near you.  

Colts foot flower just opened

Colt's-foot first flowering (northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Wood anemone flowers just open

Wood anemone first flowering (northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Lesser celandine flower just open

Lesser celandine first flowering (Keith Burdett)

1. Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Part of the Buttercup family, the small (2-3 cm across) flowers with 8-12 narrow petals resemble little yellow sunshines. They spread quickly, often providing low-lying ground cover. The glossy dark green leaves are heart shaped and 1-4 cm long.

When and where to find lesser celandine

• Flowers from late January through to April.
• Can be found anywhere from meadows, hedgerows, gardens and woodlands.
• Particularly found in damp locations.
• Record first flowering when the petals have opened sufficiently for you to see inside the flower.

We’ve already been sent 22 records of Lesser celandine first flowering this spring. The first record was sent in on 29th December.

 

2. Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Also part of the Buttercup family, the pretty star-like flowers are easily recognisable. The wood anemone generally has six or seven white petals, often with a pinkish tinge. Protruding from the centre are distinctive yellow anthers. Each flower sits at the top of a long stem (20-30cm), which has leaves roughly half-way up. The leaves are dark green and deeply lobed. They have a surprisingly musky aroma.

When and where to find wood anemone

• Flowers in March and April.
• Found in deciduous woodlands and old hedgerows.
• Preferring some shade they thrive under dappled shade and canopied broadleaves.
• Record first flowering when the petals have opened sufficiently for you to see inside the flower

We’ve not received any records of wood anemone first flowering so far this spring (it’s a bit early yet). Your sighting could be the first this spring!

 

3. Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara)

Another sunshine bright flower, colt's-foot has many thin, yellow ray florets. Each single colt's-foot flower sits on a purplish, leafless and slightly scaly stem (up to 15cm long). The hoof-shaped leaves actually appear after the flower itself and continue growing, often reaching over 1m tall. The leaf edge is slightly toothed and the upper side is green and smooth, whereas the underside is white and downy. After flowering the Colt's-foot has the distinctive seed 'clock,' like it's cousin, the dandelion. The Colt's-foot clock, however, is flat headed, with each seed still having its own 'parachute' to aid seed dispersal.

When and where to find colt's-foot

• Flowers from February to April.
• Unfussy wildflower that often forms large clumps in areas of poor soil fertility.
• Hedges, banks, roadside, on wasteland, crop fields and gardens.
• Record first flowering when the petals have opened sufficiently for you to see inside the flower.

Download our free desktop calendar to remind you what to look for, and beautify your computer at the same time!

Colt's-foot flowers on a calendar.

Food fit for a queen: early spring flowers are vital for wildlife

When the queen Red-tailed bumblebee emerges from her lonely hibernation, her first priority is to find energy rich nectar on which to feed. With little flowering in late February, early spring wildflowers such as Lesser celandine and Colt's-foot are critically important, not only for the queen, but her future colony too. The same is true for over 250 other types of bees found in the UK and wildflowers provide food for so many other insects too. Browsing around their flower feast, these insects do an essential job of pollinating not only wildflowers but trees, shrub and crops as well.

We need your help to track the flowering of Lesser celandine, Wood anemone and Colts-foot and the awakening of queen Red-tailed bumblebee near you. By gathering records of seasonal events across the UK, Nature's Calendar can build a picture of any changes taking place year on year. Scientists then use this information to study the impact of weather and climate on wildlife.

 

 

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Add a record