Thursday, 17 October 2013

Five "Fashionably Late" Wild Flowers

Posted by Dr Trevor Dines

There’s something extra special about flowers appearing in the autumn. It’s as if they’re challenging nature’s clock and you feel they deserve an extra cheer, putting on a final brave show before winter.

Some plants, like sea aster and western gorse, actually time their flowering for now, while others such as meadowsweet, dead-nettles and dandelions are just flagrant opportunists, getting in a quick flowering while the weather holds out. As well as providing a splash of autumn colour, they’re an essential source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, a final feast before they tuck themselves up for the long winter hibernation.

Five late bloomers that prove they’re worth waiting for:

1. Devil’s-bit scabious

The beautiful purple pincushion-like flowers of the Devil’s-bit scabious can be found in damp meadows, heaths and old limestone grassland until October. This native wildflower gets its name from ancient times when its stunted appearance was believed to have been caused by the devil eating its roots!

More about this flower.

2. Meadowsweet 

The fluffy white flower heads of meadowsweet will often reappear after hay cut and bring an elegant touch of colour to meadows, ditches and riverbanks in autumn when its nectar is popular with butterflies, hoverflies and other insects. In the past, its sweet-smelling foliage was cut and strewn on floors to freshen the air.

More about this flower.

3. Sea aster

Aster is Greek for 'star' - certainly an apt name for this beauty, a wild flower that likes to arrive late with a burst of colour. Also known as 'Michaelmas daisies' most arrived from America. Our native aster - the sea aster - adds a splash of vibrant purple and yellow to our coasts in the autumn.

More about this flower.

4. Meadow saffron

A femme fatale of the wild flower world, as beautiful as it is deadly (meadow saffron contains the poison colchicine).  It flowers in autumn hence another name, Autumn crocus, although it’s not actually a crocus. It’s also known as Naked ladies as the flowers appear after its leaves have died away.

More about this flower.

5. Western gorse 

And this plant will certainly add a splash of colour to autumn, and a lot more! Legend has is that when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion! Thankfully for all you romantics out there western gorse flowers from July-December and common gorse from December to June, so you can kiss your loved one all year round!

More about this flower.

So instead of the gold, orange and reds that often steal the limelight as trees put on magnificent displays, why not think pinks, purples, and even white? Celebrate the remarkable array of native wildflowers that bloom well into the autumn or even early winter.