Category Archives: Wild flowers of Britain

The ghost orchid still haunts British woods

Photo by Andy Swash

The location is a secret: somewhere in Herefordshire, and in an oak wood.  So secret that it’s taken several months to even disclose the news of its finding to the public.

The last sighting of the Ghost Orchid (Epipogium aphyllum) was in Buckinghamshire back in 1986 and in 2005 it was declared extinct.  But amateur botanist sleuth Mark Jannink never gave up.  He runs a motorbike business for a living, but his passion is wild flowers, and last September his persistence paid off. Continue reading The ghost orchid still haunts British woods

Snowdrops, the poet’s flower

Poets love snowdrops.  Even Linnaeus got lyrical when he classified them as Galanthus nivalis, which translates as “milky flower of the snow”  (in Greek,  gala = milk and anthos = flower). For St. Francis the snowdrop was an emblem of hope and the touch of green on the inner petals has often been seized upon as a symbol of spring’s return.  It is uplifting to see the green sword-shaped leaves piercing the snow and the apparently fragile bell-shaped flowers resisting all that winter can hurl at them.

There is some disagreement about when the snowdrop was introduced to Britain: some say as late as the 16th century.  It’s noticeable for its absence in Shakespeare.  Snowdrops grow particularly profusely in damp deciduous woodlands, and flower from January to March: this year the Big Freeze has delayed them.

A list of gardens with particularly good snowdrop displays can be found here.

Rodborough Common: walking among orchids and butterflies

An airy place to stretch your legs, Rodborough Common is perched steeply over Stroud, on the edge of the Cotswolds.  Any time of the year is good for extensive views of the Severn estuary and Welsh mountains on the horizon, but spring to summer are best, as the carefully managed chalk grassland is a haven for butterflies and wild flowers.  Continue reading Rodborough Common: walking among orchids and butterflies