Betula jacquemontii, Bloomsbury Press, Burnet-saxifrage, centaurea scabiosa, Common Bird's-foot trefoil, Convolvulus arvensis, Field scabious, Galium verum, Greater Knapweed, ISBN 978 1 4088 1394 2, Knautia arvensis, Lady's Bedstraw, Leucanthemum vulgare, Lotus corniculatus, Meadow, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pbindweed, Prunella vulgaris, Selfheal, Senecio squalidus, White stemmed Birch, Wild Flowers Sarah Raven
A meadow is one of those places that readers my age (youngsters!) will recall from their childhood in the 1960’s and 70’s. They were along roadsides, in fields, in that rough bit of land over by the playground. Places we rode our bikes through as a short cut to somewhere. Grass seeds would stick in your socks. Butterflies and bees would fly up out of your way. The dry grassy smell would tickle your nostrils, well it did mine. Anyway we are now missing what we have largely lost and there is a strong desire to recreate these wild areas to help our dwindling numbers of insects.
A couple of years ago the decision was made at the place where I work to allow a large area of grass to remain uncut. This part of the garden is on the North facing front of the house, is on thin chalky soil, far enough away from the house and drive that it is not used all that often, save as a cut through to the compost/tip area of the garden and as an area to exercise the family dogs. It is a steep sloping site , exposed to the elements on all sides and thanks to the chalk is very free draining. Initially the area was dotted with what I think of as motorway daisies, you know the ones, those big white daisies you catch out the corner of your eye as you speed along the road, Leucanthemum vulgare or Oxeye Daisy. They carpeted the area with their white blooms looking as fresh as, well a daisy, of course. The following Winter a group of trees were planted to compliment the flowers, namely the white stemmed Birch, Betula jacquemontii. My minds eye had pictured the white stems of the birch standing ankle deep in the white daisies. The following year however, there were less of the daisies and the show was somewhat less impressive than I had hoped.
This year there were even less daisies, but instead a number of other exciting flowers emerged. Firstly there has been a even greater number this year of so called yellow Eggs and Bacon, Common Bird’s-foot trefoil , Lotus corniculatus.
This is one of our most common meadow wild flowers and is a source of food for the larvae of the Common Blue butterfly as well as Green Hairstreak and Dingy Skipper (fab names!) It is also a useful source of nectar for bees. so must be good. Then there has been ever increasing numbers of pale mauve flowers:
This is a poor quality picture ( sorry) of Field Scabious, Knautia arvensis. These offer high quality nectar for butterflies and bees and finches love its seed. They flower all Summer and germinate well on chalky soil, so we can realistically hope to see these in greater numbers each year.
Another purple flower very visible this year is Greater Knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa. This too is a good source of nectar for the bees and butterflies. I am advised that by soaking the roots in wine and applying to a problem area it will allieviate bruises and skin problems such as sores and rashes. I think I will stick with arnica and save the wine for more important things.
Another purple beauty is Selfheal, Prunella vulgaris a type of dead-nettle,this is a small perennial, is one of the first wild flowers or weed, depending on your point of view, to creep into an unmown lawn.
This pretty umbellifer is Burnet-saxifrage, Pimpinella saxifraga and is from the Carrot family. A delicate white frothy flower which is food to the larvae of several species of moths. You can almost miss seeing this, as it somehow grows just beneath the seed heads of the grasses.
Other flowers include, the common old Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris another member of the carrot family. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis is another common sight in the meadow. It is rather pretty and delicate with its pale pink stripe and creeping habit.
Hedge bedstraw, Galium album seems to fit the description Sarah Raven provides in her book( see below) however the picture is not exactly the same so I am not certain. If you have a different idea do let me know.
Then if that is Hedge Bedstraw the vivid yellow version below is Lady’s Bedstraw, Galium verum. A sulphur yellow flower which is low to the ground it has a strong smell of honey and hay. The scent remains when dried and so in olden days it was harvested to stuff pillows and mattresses especially for women about to give birth, hence its name. It was also mixed to flavour and colour cheese, mixed with nettles it was a key ingredient of Double Gloucester cheese. I find it quite amazing that anyone would have discovered these somewhat contrasting uses.
Another yellow flower is what I believe to be the Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus. This is an escapee from the Oxford Botanical Garden back in 1794,so although it has been around a while, it is extraordinary to think that it was originally gathered from Mount Etna for the collection at Oxford. It was recorded at Oxford Railway Station in 1879 so just imagine it blowing its seeds along the railroad tracks where the ballast was not unlike that of Etna. And now on the Chilterns.
Marvellous, a train and plant tale.
I have used Wild Flowers by Sarah Raven, Bloomsbury Press as my reference. ISBN 978 1 4088 1394 2
This wonderful book, with exquisite photography by Johathan Buckley was a gift from my parents and is really useful as well as pretty to look at. I have to admit to knowing the names of very few wild flowers and this book is a great source of information.
Since I posted this I read an article by Chloris under wildflower wednesday. Some of her photos are clearer than mine so if you are interested take a look at her post, it’s worth a read, on
Bossman Dave has sadly missed the display this year, so this post is for him. We all hope to see you back soon.