Early spring flowers

Lesser celandine © Philip Precey

As our days get gradually longer, the very first spring flowers start to brave the frosty ground, hinting at sunny days ahead.

Even at this early stage in the year, you may be treated to the sight of snowdrops, which peep over the frosted soil of woodlands, churchyards or gardens. These dainty (and deceptively hardy) flowers come into bloom as early as January, and continue to flower until March. Snowdrops are one of the first signs that winter is drawing to a close, and as a result the plant has long been viewed as a hopeful symbol of better times to come.

Despite its long history in the UK, however, snowdrops may not be native to our shores; they were not recorded as growing wild here until the late 18th century. Nevertheless, they have certainly become naturalised from garden escapees, and white snowdrop 'valleys' can now be seen across the country.

Snowdrop

Snowdrop © Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

While you’re out on a  late winter walk, you may also see primroses. The name ‘primrose’ comes from the Latin 'prima rosa', meaning 'first rose’; very apt, as these resilient little plants can flower as early as December in mild years. Primroses represent eternal love, and in Irish folklore putting primroses in the doorway was thought to keep mischievous fairies at bay! Look out for their pretty, creamy-yellow flowers in woodland and grassland habitats.

Primrose

Primrose © Deryn Hawkins

Lesser celandines also bring a welcome splash of sunshine to January days. Look out for their bright yellow petals along hedgerows, in parks and even in graveyards, where some flowers will be starting to rear their heads. As some of the first spring flowers to bloom, lesser celandines provide a valuable nectar source for early insects. Contrary to what the name suggests, these plants are not closely related to greater celandines – they are actually part of the buttercup family.

Lesser celandine

Lesser celandine © Philip Precey

Next time you’re out for a walk, keep your eyes peeled for the first of our wildflowers – they are sure to put a spring in your step.