Top 10 British native wildflowers

The delicate charm of so many British wildflowers belies the fact that they are mostly trouble-free


Pasque flower - Pulsatilla vulgaris

This very attractive clump-forming perennial for well-drained soils carries bell-shaped, purple flowers in spring, followed later by silky silvery seed heads. Ideal for raised beds. A range of named forms is available. Found on a few open, south or south-west facing sites on alkaline soils where its success depends on grazing which it tolerates well. Protected but still declining. 20cm (8in).

Primrose - Primula vulgaris

One of Britain’s favourite flowers, the pale yellow spring blooms are set against clumps of puckered green foliage. They sometimes open as early as December in the mildest areas. Many named forms and hybrids are known. Pink forms may be native in Wales. Found across almost the whole of Britain and Ireland, in a range of shady places. 20cm (8in).


Stinking iris - Iris foetidissima

This distinctive evergreen iris features clumps of dark green foliage, which smells unpleasant when bruised, bluish-purple flowers in spring and early summer then the clusters of orange-red seeds for which it is usually grown. Tolerant of drought and shade. Native across the southern part of England and north Wales, where it is found in woods, along hedgerows and on sea cliffs, mostly on limy soils. 45cm (18in).


Stinking hellebore - Helleborus foetidus

This distinctive early-flowering perennial features bold dark green foliage, topped in spring with heads of small red-rimmed, green bells. Bold enough to make a winter specimen, yet fits in well with spring bulbs and other early perennials. Many forms have been named, but few persist. Found mainly in the south and west and usually in woodland clearings and hedgerows on thin, limy soil. 90cm (3ft).


Snake's head fritillary - Fritillaria meleagris

An engaging and popular bulb, its nodding chequered purple and white spring flowers swing from slender stems. In borders they often make tight clumps but can also be naturalised very effectively in damp lawns. A few named forms in white, purple and smoky shades are known. Native to central southern England and East Anglia where it is restricted to wet meadows, especially those managed for hay. 30cm (12in).


Golden shield fern - Dryopteris affinis

A bold, tough and impressive fern featuring large rather upright fronds; divided into neat leaflets and with golden scales along the midrib. Easy in shade, and tolerates drought once established. Found over the whole of the British Isles, usually in deciduous woods, along rides in conifer forests and in other partially shaded areas, usually on lime-free soil. 90cm (3ft).


Cheddar pink - Dianthus gratianopolitanus

Short stems carry single early summer flowers in pink or pale purplish shades, all strongly clove-scented and popular with butterflies and hawkmoths. The low, tufted mats of slender greyish leaves set the flowers off well. Ideal in gravel or raised beds. Native to Cheddar Gorge and a few nearby sites, and benefiting from scrub clearance and statutory protection, so now increasing after long decline. 15cm (6in).


Lily of the valley - Convallaria majalis

Its dainty, super-scented spring bells are held against bold green foliage which darkens over the season. Can be unpredictable in gardens, but can thrive in dry shade. Pink, double and variegated forms are known. Native mostly in England, usually on rather poor soil, and especially in ash woods, and sometimes found in unexpected places such as limestone pavements. 23cm (9in).


Wood anemone - Anemone nemorosa

In its wild form, this valuable shade lover carries white, five-petaled spring flowers against prettily divided dark green foliage; its rhizomes spread steadily. It settles itself neatly around stouter perennials, and under or around deciduous shrubs and trees. Many forms have been named. Native to almost the whole of Britain and most of Ireland on a variety of soils and habitats, and is sometimes even found under bracken. 15cm (6in).


Field maple - Acer campestre

An attractive deciduous tree featuring fresh green new shoots, green spring flowers, and buttery yellow autumn colour. The five-lobed foliage is unmistakably that of a maple. A fine hedgerow and specimen tree. Our only native maple, widespread in England Wales, and seen in woodland, scrub and old hedges, usually on alkaline soils. 12m (40ft).

See also

Find out more about encouraging bees into your garden

Discover native trees and shrubs

Find out how to establish a wildflower meadow

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