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Top Flowers to Spot this Spring – Part Two

Posted on March 31, 2016 @ 4:34 PM in Walking

We hope you enjoyed Part One of our Top Spring Flowers to Spot blog and are ready to find our more in Part Two… 

Violets on sunny banks are a welcome sight in March and April. For many, a violet is simply a violet, but look closely and you may well come across three species. Always the earliest to appear, and often not identified, even though fairly common is Early Dog Violet,  growing in light woodland and more likely on limestone.

Early Dog Violet

Wood Dog Violets are more straggly than Common Dog Violets, with blue flowers tending towards purple. The purple spur at the rear of the flower is a good identification point, other violets have creamy spurs. Common Dog Violets are frequent everywhere on sunny hedge-banks facing spring sunshine.

Common Dog Violet

Heath Dog Violets are mostly found on sandy heath-land or coastal grasslands. Also in early April, almost pure white flowers of Greater Stitchwort appear on grassy roadside banks. You might well see two closely related plants with smaller flowers, Lesser Stitchwort and Least Stitchwort. 

Greater Stitchworth

You can identify them using that new wildflower book you bought! Wild Garlic carpets woodland floors and is a plant every walker is aware of. Tramping boots release the intense garlic smell from crushed leaves. Look up some of the many culinary uses for wild garlic on the internet. It is also reputed to protect from witches!! 

wild garlic

Wood Anemones are common- no reason to leave out such a dainty and delicate flower which brightens woodland floors in late March and April with nodding white flowers. Wood Anemone is sometimes called windflower because the flowers tremble continually in even a slight breeze.

Wood anemones
The earliest orchid to appear is Early Purple Orchid in May with magenta flowers and leaves with dark brown blotches. Shakespeare described them as ‘Long purples’. Some woods have this species in abundance, others have none.

Early Purple Orchard

White-pink flowers of Ladies Smock, appear for a few weeks in damp meadows, around the end of April. Often Orange-Tip and Green-veined white butterflies will be fluttering around Ladies Smock, looking for a suitable spot to lay rafts of orange eggs under the leaves.

Ladies Smock

There are so many other common spring species to see, all worth a place, so buy a flora book as suggested and you will open up a new world of discovery for yourself. Try it and see, and by the way there are at least another 100 or so spring plants to find.

No apologies for leaving out two iconic spring species-bluebells and primroses-everyone knows these beautiful plants well. Rare plants are always worth looking for, in the right place, and are more likely to be seen by those who walk or look where others seldom do. The cliffs of Binevenagh and Sallagh Braes (usually in May) have rare spring flowering alpines not found elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Cushions of  Moss Campion dotted with pink flowers adorn the cliffs of Binevenagh in May.

Moss Campion

Mountain Avens with creamy white eight petalled flowers which close up in rain, can be found on the cliffs around the same time.

Mountain Avens
You will however be very lucky to find Purple Saxifrage, and although reputed to grow on Binevenagh, I have never seen it there. You have a much better chance of finding this beautiful plant on rocky outcrops on the limestone hills of Sligo.

Purple Saxifrage

So, set out on a world of discovery this spring, don’t worry if the group gets ahead a bit. Better still, try the odd wander with a few friends or on your own.  When you begin to notice and concentrate on the plants around you, your heart-rate will drop and your mind will relax-for a while anyhow!

Ronnie Irvine
Ronnie Irvine  Seasoned Hill Walker and UFRC Committee Member

A retired chemistry teacher and a hill-walker for more than 30 years, Ronnie has been on the UFRC Committee since shortly after retirement. He has a keen interest in Natural History and photography which he combines with his love of hill-walking. Having taken up web design on retirement he now runs his local walking club website www.midulsterwalkingclub.org.uk and his own photographic site www.ronniepics.co.uk as well as finding the time to be a walk volunteer ranger with Outdoor Recreation NI.

4 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Matthew Woodhouse on March 31, 2016 @ 10:40 PM

An excellent blog on our beautiful wildflowers. I have just purchased the book by Simon Harrap on your recommendation! Cannot wait to get out and learn/explore! Many thanks!

Posted by Roisin McCabe on April 1, 2016 @ 7:50 PM

Many thanks Ronnie for sharing both articles. I have enjoyed reading Part One and Part Two, providing memorable snippets of information and clear pics. We have spotted a few of these wildflowers already on our walks. Looking forward to ticking off some more now! Happy walking and snapping, R & D

Posted by Ashley on April 2, 2016 @ 6:32 PM

Brilliant post. Thank you.

Posted by Margaret Marshall on April 13, 2016 @ 9:33 PM

Thankyou Ronnie - lovely photos and useful information - I find it hard to get walkers to pause enough to look at plants or even views!

BSBI outing to Binevenagh did find Moss campion on the cliffs in 2016

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