Wildflowers – April

Blue

Spanish Bluebell

Spanish Bluebell

The common bluebell of gardens, paler blue and often pink or white. Often hybridises with the native bluebell. It can be distinguised from our native bluebell by its erecter, not one sided spikes of larger, flatter flowers with blue anthers and broader leaves.

Flowers April to June.

This was seen on the hedge bank opposite Ashton Grange.

Wood Speedwell

Wood Speedwell

A low, short (up to 40cm long) and sprawling perennial with small, delicate flowers that are dwarfed by the much larger leaves. The stems are hairy, the leaves toothed and long stalked and of a rather pale yellowy-green appearance. The flowers are pale lilac with darker streaks. They are usually found in woodlands.

Flowers April to July.

The example shown was seen in the hedgerow where Chapel Lane (Mouldsworth) extends into Manley Lane.

Green

Moschatel

Moschatel

Moschatel is a low hairless perennial growing to 15cm flowering in late April.

The delicate flowers are greenish, tiny and in fives at right angles to each other to make a small head and it is the characteristic that gives the plant its other common name of Town Hall Clock.

It prefers growing in shady, moist habitats, often in deciduous woodland or shaded places. Locally it grows shaded by the trees on the bank just off the footpath between Mouldsworth and Ashton but it can be difficult to spot.

Petty Spurge

Petty Spurge

Our commonest weedy spurge, a short hairless unbranched annual to 30cms.

Flowerheads very small and green. Leaves oval mid-green and untoothed. Grows in gardens and other cultivated and waste land.

Flowers April to November.

Photographed outside of the Ashton Village Hall.

Sun Spurge

Sun Spurge

This plant is a weed of bare and disturbed ground, and is our only common Spurge with toothed leaves. It is a short hairless annual with bright yellowish-green flower heads with roundish green lobes.

It flowers from April to November and even through mild winters.

This plant was found growing in the tractor ruts just off Shay Lane.

Pink

Common Fumitory

Common Fumitory

Much the commonest of our 10 species with its greyish pinnate leaves which can ramble on hedge banks or walls 1m.

It has been used since Roman times for its purifying properties and a general tonic but can have a hypnotic effect over several days. It has also been used as a skin lotion e.g. for fading freckles, eczema.

Flowers April to November. This was growing by a footpath alongside a field of maize at Peel Hall.

Cuckoo Flower

Cuckoo Flower

Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock is a charming and common spring flower. Its habitats are damp meadows and moist places in woodland.

The plant is often covered with ‘cuckoo spit’ which is produced by leaf-hopper larvae which suck juice from the stem and this, when mixed with air, yields the familiar froth. The plant is rich in mustard oil and Vitamin C. It flowers April to June. The flower pictured was seen growing on the marshy meadow alongside the footpath that runs between Moss Lane and Sugar Lane in the Mouldsworth/Manley area.

Doves-Foot Cranesbill

Doves-Foot Cranesbill

The delightful Dove’s-foot Cranesbill is a low sprawling annual with tiny pink-purple flowers to 6mm. The petals are notched and the leaves roundish cut to at least halfway. This cranesbill grows in grassy and waste places often with bare patches.

Nicholas Culpeper in his herbal of 1652 suggested a variety of uses for Dove’s-foot Cranesbill, including the treatment of internal and external injuries. A note was also made that the bruised leaf healed external injuries faster. A decoction in wine was said to relieve gout and other joint pains.

It flowers April to September. The example here was growing in the grass verge at the corner of Peel Crescent and Brookside.

Herb Robert

Herb Robert

A strong smelling short/medium hairy sprawling annual with stems often reddish, to 50cms. It frequents wood edges, hedgerows and banks but also mountain screes.

In the past it was used as a treatment for eye inflammation and as a mouthwash. Freshly crushed leaves are said to ward off mosquitoes.

It flowers April to November This example was growing in the community pavilion field at the base of the hedgerow.

Round-Leaved Cranesbill

Round-Leaved Cranesbill

A charming medium hairy annual to 40cms with strong pink albeit small flowers. Likes growing by hedges, banks, walls and bare ground

They flower from April to August. This example was growing (before the grass was cut) on the protected Green Space at the entrance to Peel Hall Lane from the main road. It can also be seen at the junction of Norton Lane and Gongar Lane.

Purple

Honesty

Honesty

An increasingly common garden escape growing on hedge-banks and waysides. Flowers can be purple or white (28-31 mm). Leaves are heart-shaped and have a toothed edge. Height up to 1m.

The leaves, if collected before the flowers appear, can be used as a green vegetable. The flowers can be added to salads. The large oval seed heads have a silvery translucence that makes them attractive for use in dried flower arrangements. 

Flowers April to June. Seen growing on a hedge-bank along Moss Lane, Manley.

White

Common Mouse-Ear

Common Mouse-ear

An erect to sprawling hairy perennial, almost ubiquitous in grassy places such as verges and lawns. You have to look closely to see the tiny white flowers.

Flowers April to June. This example is easily spotted growing in Peel Hall Lane.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

This plant is also known as Jack-by-the-Hedge and grows to between 20 and 100 cms in height. It is generally found in copses and the margins of open, moist woodland.

The plant gives off the smell of garlic when rubbed. It contains mustard oil (hence its name) and is an old medicinal plant. It can be eaten boiled as a vegetable and raw in salads.

It flowers April to June. The flower shown was seen growing at the edge of the hedgerow that runs along Chapel Lane, Mouldsworth.

Greater Stitchwort

Greater Stitchwort

Also known as the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ the greater stitchwort has pretty star-shaped flowers and grows in woodlands and along hedgerows and roadside verges. Flowers are 2 to 3 cm across and have deeply cleft petals. Grows up to 50 cm in height.

The plant’s seed capsules make a loud popping sound when ripe, which is why it is sometimes refried to as ‘popguns’ or ‘poppers’.

Flower from April to June. This plant seen growing on the roadside verge on Brine’s Brow Lane but also present on Old Lane.

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

This rather dull, familiar plant is common throughout the UK. Flowers are blackish-brown at first but pale brown later. Leaves are long, lanceolate and have prominent ribs. Grows in fields, lawns, meadows, roadsides, waste ground, parks and sand dunes. It is a very hardy plant and can usually be found in any environment with soil.

The leaves of Ribwort Plantain have useful medicinal properties being an antihistamine, antioxidant and analgesic. Used as an antihistamine it is very effective at dealing with nettle stings and insect bites.

Flowers April to October.

This example was growing on the grass verge in Smithy Lane, Mouldsworth.

Sweet Alison

Sweet Alison

This fragrant garden edging plant is now seen increasingly in the wild. It is a low, short annual that grows to 30 cm. Flowers are small and white, occasionally pale purple. Leaves are not toothed, not stalked and linear-lanceolate. As its scientific name (lobularia maritima) implies it is often found on sandy ground by the sea. Away from the coast it is found on waste ground.

The petals, leaves, and tender stems of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked.

Flowers April to September.

This example was seen growing on the grassy verge in the Mouldsworth station car park. Probably a garden escape.

White Comfrey

White Comfrey

This is an erect, little branched, medium high perennial and the only Comfrey with pure white flowers. The roughly hairy stem leaves are more rounded than other comfreys, variably stalked and never running down the stem. It is a plant of well-established hedgerows and waysides.

The Latin name Symphytum (from the Greek symphis, meaning growing together of bones, and phyton, a plant), referring to its ancient use for mending bones.

This is an early flowering Comfrey generally from April to May but a little earlier this year. This example was found growing in Longley Lane.

Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel

This is a pretty woodland wildflower that has delicate white flowers that have fine mauve veins. It is the commonest and only native wood-sorrel. Leaves are green, trifoliate and shamrock-like. Grows in woodland, on hedgerows, banks and in other moist, shaded habitats.

The plant acts as a weather vane in that the leaves fold up before and during rain and when it gets dark. The plant is edible and has a citric and mild acidic taste (caused by oxalis acid – its scientific name being oxalis acetosella)

Flowers April to May. The flower pictured was growing in the woods above Brine’s Brow car park.

Yellow

Black Medick

Black Medick

A sprawling low annual or short lived perennial that can grow to 60cms, but is usually smaller. The leaves end with a minute point which distinguishes it from the Lesser Trefoil with which it can easily be confused. As Lesser Trefoil grows all over locally as well. It likes bare ground or short grass and can be a particular nuisance in lawns.

Flowers April to October. This example is easily spotted growing on the top of the lower retaining wall at the Village Hall.

Buttercups

The yellow flower of the buttercup is familiar to us all whether growing in the hedgerow, in the meadow or perhaps even in the garden. And in Ashton there are actually 3 different types of buttercup to be found, the Meadow Buttercup, the Creeping Buttercup and, more unusually, the Bulbous Buttercup.

Bulbous Buttercup

Bulbous Buttercup

This can be immediately identified by looking at the underside of the flower where the green/brown sepals are turned down rather than clasping the flower as found in both the Meadow and Creeping Buttercups. The leaves are very similar to the Creeping Buttercup. The Bulbous Buttercup flowers from late March to May and so is very much a flower of the spring and in Ashton the Bulbous Buttercup can be found growing on the grassy bank across the road from the School.

Creeping Buttercup

Creeping Buttercup

This is the only common yellow buttercup with creeping and rooting runners. It is a low to medium perennial to 60cm but generally much shorter and often entirely prostrate. The leaves are triangular with three lobes the end one of which has a long stalk (see picture). It grows in damp places in woods, grassland and is an invasive weed of the garden. The Creeping Buttercup flowers from May until October and can be found throughout the area in damp grassy places.

Meadow Buttercup

Meadow Buttercup

This is the tallest and most graceful with glossy yellow flowers growing up to a metre high in grasslands and meadows. It can be readily told from other buttercups by the shape of its leaves that are deeply cut into three to seven lobes (see picture); and by the fact that it does not possess the runners of Creeping Buttercup.

Meadow Buttercups flower from April until October and can be found throughout the area although best seen blowing in the wind across the fields.

Golden Saxifrage

Golden Saxifrage

Also known as the Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, it truly lives up to its name: look for paired, rounded, green leaves with small, golden flowers set among them. The flowers themselves actually lack petals, but are surrounded by their golden sepals and yellowish leaves. This is a moisture-loving plant that is found in any habitat near damp or wet places, such as by the side of shady streams and in wet woodlands. It is a creeping perennial that forms mats of golden-green flowers.

It is the County Flower of Clackmannanshire, characteristic of the shaded, wooded glens cutting into the Ochils, such as Dollar Glen.

It flowers between April and June. This specimen was seen next to Ashton Brook at Spy Hill.

Greater Celandine

Greater Celandine

A rather greyish, sparsely hairy, bushy, medium tall perennial to 85cms. Likes to grow on banks, near old walls / buildings or on disturbed ground.

The bright orange milk was a popular drug plant in Roman times but is extremely poisonous containing the alkaloid chelidonine.

Flowers April to October. This was growing in Gongar Lane between the stream and the railway bridge where it is quite profuse.

Oxford Ragwort

Oxford Ragwort

This plant is a well branched often straggling perennial to 50cms with yellow flowers where the inner bracts are tipped black. The leaves are glossy, hairless and pinnately lobed or deeply toothed. It is a well-established invasive plant of bare and waste ground. It first appeared as a wholly new species from a hybrid of two plants growing in Oxford Botanic Gardens around 1790, and subsequently “escaped” into Oxford and its Colleges and from there along the newly built railway lines to colonise many areas of the UK.

All parts of the plant contain alkaloids that are toxic to cattle, deer, pigs, horses and goats, causing liver damage, with death often occurring months after ingestion.

It flowers April to November and through mild winters. This plant is growing in Shay Lane.

Smooth Sow-thistle

Smooth Sow-thistle

The commonest Sow-thistle. It is a branched erect annual/biennial to 2m. It can be found in grassy and waste areas, path sides etc.

It flowers April to November. This example is easily spotted growing in the field entrance between Gladstone Barns and April Cottage on Church Road.