Spotting wildflowers and photographing them
I love spotting wildflowers, it’s something I’ve done since I was a kid. Back then I used to pick them, often making big bouquets for myself of cow parsley and grasses. These days I take a photo instead, often just with my smartphone as it’s all I’ve got on me at the time. I go for a lot of walks, which often take longer than expected due to unscheduled stops for photography!
How I identify British wildflowers
I’m pretty good at the basics – I’ve been a keen gardener for 30 years since renting a garden flat at uni, and even worked in a garden centre for six years, so I can usually spot which genus a bloom falls into and/or it’s common name. I don’t carry a book with me, or a hand lens because books are heavy, as is my DSLR camera, and I don’t need a hand-lens.
I take some pics
I take pretty photos of the flower of course, but also stems and leaves, usually with my budget smartphone (mine has resolution of about 4000 x 3000 pixels so hand lens becomes obsolete). When I get home, I can zoom in on details if necessary and identify in conjunction with Francis Rose Wildflower Key. If I need extra help, I do a google image search (although there are a lot of mislabelled images out there – avoid stock photo sites and look for a consensus), or visit a trusted website (such as Wildlife Trusts) – these resourses often help clinch the ID and separate it from similar species. If in doubt I have sometimes asked on Twitter too.
I only try to I.D. plants that are in flower
I often don’t pay attention to ID guides that discuss seed pods or whether a plant is annual or perennial – if you’re only passing something once, these things might not be relevant.
If you disagree with an ID please let me know by commenting at the bottom of each post as I’m still learning!
I only use full botanical names (two words with Genus followed by species) when I’m confident or trying to distinguish between two similar species – for an example see my posts on violas.
By the way I trained as a scientist (I have a PhD in solid-state chemistry), so I’m not biased against scientific methods, I just think they can take the joy out of things sometimes.
I recently bought the Fourth Edition of New Flora of the British Isles by Clive Stace as I felt as if I wouldn’t be a proper wildflower enthusiast without it. My advice is: unless you are a botanist or have a scientific interest in plants, don’t spend your hard-earned money. Mine was £25 second hand, and for enthusiastic amateurs Rose is much better – it has really helpful pictures.
British wildflowers in the South East
I go wildflower spotting mostly in Sussex, around the Seaford, Eastbourne and Battle areas, and the north Kent coast and Canterbury. I enjoy seeing what I can find when I’m abroad too, but often find identification somewhat harder!
List of flowers identified
Here are some of the species I have been able to identify – it’s always growing and I’m still working on the back catalogue! Some of these links are just tags which list posts mentioning the flower, but bit-by-bit I’m upgrading these to a little piece about each plant or group of plants, for example, Alexanders below. As I acquire more information about a group of plants, I’ll split these into a page per flower, as I have done for Alliums. Some plants are harder to identify than others because there are similar ones growing in the area – where this happened, I tried to explain my reasoning for the ID I arrived at, for example Clovers.
Species awaiting links
Agrimony Atriplex Avens
Chickweed Coltsfoot Comfrey Corydalis
Goats-rue Goats beard
Hawkweed Hogs fennel Honeysuckle Horned poppy
Lagurus Lotus Lucerne
Madder Mallow Mayweed Meadowsweet Mullein
Pea Pepperwort Pimpernell Potentilla
Salsify Scurvy-grass Sea beet Sea holly Sedum Shepherds purse Sorrel Spearwort Spurge Spurrey
Tansy Thyme Trefoil