How wild are we? Plotting our wildflower plants

Inspired by our citizen science project, I had a wander around my garden yesterday and made a note of these 12 wildflowers that are currently flowering that you might take note of in your surveys!

The Trust's How wild are we? citizen science project involves doing a Plant Plotter survey where you're asked to identify the plants in one meter squared of your garden. Inspired by this project, I had a wander around my garden yesterday and made a note of these 12 wildflowers that are currently flowering that you might take note of in your surveys!

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You may be surprised at just how many wildflowers you have in your garden, especially if you relax the mowing regime a little and encourage one or two ‘wild’ areas.

How about taking part in the National Trust's #NoMowMay challenge?

#NoMowMay

Many people would call these wildflowers ‘weeds’ and perhaps even try to eliminate them. However, these plants are some of our native wildflowers and provide important food sources for our insects, birds and even small mammals.

 

If we start with the humble dandelion, they really are incredibly important for a wide range of species. There are in fact over 200 species of dandelion, each with slightly different features and most producing pollen for our insects. I’ve seen solitary bees, bumble bees, honeybees, beetles and a number of butterflies all feeding from dandelion flowers. Last week I even saw a beautiful pair of goldfinches feeding from dandelion seed heads on the lawn.

Another of my favourites is garlic mustard. This plant has just come into flower and is part of the crucifer or cabbage family. This plant is edible and as the name suggests, the leaves smell faintly of garlic when crushed. The really exciting thing about this plant though is that it’s the food plant for the orange tip butterfly. The butterfly lays its eggs singly just beneath the flower heads. As they ripen, they turn a brilliant orange colour. Each of the garlic mustard plants in my garden has one egg on it at the moment. They are laid singly because the caterpillars that hatch from them are actually cannibalistic and will eat any others that they encounter. The caterpillars are wonderfully camouflaged and feed on the developing seed pods before pupating over winter and then hatching into the beautiful orange tip butterflies that we see on the wing at the moment.

Other wildflowers include the lovely bulbous buttercup. You’ll notice the sepals (below the petals) are turned backwards, or reflexed, in this species. The other two fairly common buttercups that you may encounter in your garden, meadow and creeping buttercup, both have sepals spreading below but around the petals, in the more usual way.

There are several members of the pea family that you may find in the garden, including this common vetch and the tiny black medick. Each of the tiny flowers within the flowerheads are all arranged in exactly the same way, consisting of a standard petal at the top, two wing petals and the keel at the base. Have a close look at a clover flowerhead and you’ll see that each tiny flower making up that flowerhead has this same arrangement. It’s an important characteristic of the pea family.

Other plants in the collage include cow parsley, white dead nettle, daisy, cowslips, ground ivy and two different speedwells. There’s the tiny ivy leaved speedwell and the beautiful blue germander speedwell which my grandfather always used to call bird’s eye.

So you’ll see that the garden can be a haven for wildflowers, particularly if we let them flourish. Once you have those flowers, they should attract the insects which will hopefully bring in the birds, bats and other small mammals.

Enjoy surveying your garden!

Susan Simmonds, @susanjsimmonds, susan.simmonds@hiwwt.org.uk

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket © T Standish

Become a citizen scientist

Did you learn something new today? Use this information to identify species at home and help us learn how wild we are.

We need your help to create a baseline of the wildlife we have now so we can track our progress towards a Wilder 2030. Tell us what wildlife you can see from your windows, what visits your balcony and what’s living in your garden. 

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