Saturday, 7 March 2009

Identifying wild flowers by their leaves

I had a little stroll with my camera to hand yesterday, and took photos of various leaves that I am able to identify (and a couple I'm not sure about so will have to check). I will assume no knowledge at all, so even the humble Dandelion is here . . .

Herb Robert, which has a pink flower from late April through to October. The red colouring of the stalks and leaves is fairly typical of winter foliage, but much greener leaves will show later. Sometimes the leaves go a deep rusty pink when they are old.

The humble Dandelion with its saw-toothed leaves, next to the spotted leaves (right) of a Wild Arum Lily. The Dandelion is also known as Jack-P*ss-the-Bed, Wet-the-Bed and other country names, indicating the plants use for urinary problems, as it is a diuretic. The round seedheads are of course the country man's clock, the time depending on how many blows it takes to release all the seeds. Very scientific! The leaves were and still are used in salads (though I find them bitter) and the roots may be dried, roasted and then used for making coffee. Amazingly, there are more than 200 micro-species in the UK.

A splendid dark varient colouring of the Ivy leaf, with a lighter sort behind it. I like the really deep burgundy red ones you sometimes find in winter.

The strap-like Harts Tongue Fern to the right of a good early growth of Cow Parsley. In sheltered spots here they have been showing young leaves all winter.

The male flowers of the Dog's Mercury, a hedgerow plant, and beneath it the heart-shaped leaves of a Celandine.

The tiny yellow-studded "flowers" of the Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, which grows in damp places here. The 3-leaved wild Strawberries beneath it, and what looks like an early growth of Ground Elder top left.

Hazel catkins, and you can just see the little red female flower which will be the Hazel nut once it is fertilized.

This is Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-Hedge. Its leaves are also good in spring salads.

Finally, Ramsons, or Wild Garlic, which are wonderful in cooking. You may smell them before you see them, as they have a very strong aroma of Garlic, particularly when crushed.

More tomorrow.


  1. Lovely - we still have bare ground! Garlic mustard is a rampant and difficult invasive for us, lacking its normal habitat and constraints on growth.

  2. Hardly anything round these parts, unless I'm looking in all the wrong places! Did see the arum, though, on my last walk.

    It feels a bit bizarre coming here as I used to keep a nature notes page on Live Journal years ago when my online name was meadowsweet! LOL

  3. In the last week there has been a real surge of growth round here, I even saw the spears of bluebell leaves coming through yesterday. Jack-by-the-Hedge is a wonderful name isn't it - I wonder how it originated?

  4. Rowan & Kate - I think that plants grow at different times in different areas. Here, the first pussy willow "paws" are just coming out (but down the hill by the river, where it's a frost pocket). still no sign on our trees by the front gate. But in town, along the A40, they have passed to yellow blowsyness!

    I love these country names. I have Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica at my feet, and it is a WONDERFUL book. I was so pleased when I got it.

    Mara - snap then! Meadowsweet for me because of the proliferation of it growing round here, and when I had my quilt business, I called it Meadowsweet Quilts . . .

  5. The wild garlic is growing really well here in France - I've already added it to soups and stews and it's going on top of the next pizza I make.

    Rosie x

  6. A friend's husband is a chef E.G. and he included Ramsons in a winning recipe last year. I only have to smell them to be transported back nearly 30 years to a wonderful walk in the Purbecks, where a friend and I first discovered Ramsons by sitting in a patch!

  7. I picked some a few days ago and added them to an omelette, lovely flavour, but my stomach ached the next day ;) perhaps they were too strong. Hugh.F.Whittingstall is advocating nettle soup in the Guardian - fresh tops, but you can use the new leaves of ground elder as well I suppose, and sorrel of course, though I find it bitter.
    Thelma x

  8. I've made a promise to Maureen at Random Distractions to try eating dandelion greens this year and report back to her :<)