Common Wild Flowers to Find in the English Countryside

Updated on August 5, 2020
Imogen French profile image

Imogen is from West Dorset, UK. Her favourite subjects are the environment, gardening, and vegetarian food.

In this photo, there are primroses (centre bottom), dandelions (top left) and greater stitchwort (right) in a grassy bank
In this photo, there are primroses (centre bottom), dandelions (top left) and greater stitchwort (right) in a grassy bank | Source

Wild Flowers Commonly Found in England

The English countryside is typified by rolling hills and a beautiful random patchwork appearance produced by small agricultural fields delineated by thick hedgerows. The diverse countryside of the UK provides a huge range of habitats including woodlands, copses, coastal areas ranging from rocky beaches to sand dunes, fields, meadows and heathlands, all of which give rise to a vast array of beautiful wild flowers.

Taking a walk through the countryside with my camera and a wild flower book in my pocket is one of my favourite things to do. The photographs shown here are my own snapshots taken in and around West Dorset in the southwest of England on some of my countryside ramblings.

Flowering plants that grow on the grassy banks along roadsides are many and varied, and most are easy to find and identify. This article describes and illustrates some of the most common flowers that can be found throughout the year in and around the Dorset countryside. Species are described by their common names with their Latin names in brackets for reference.

Snowdrops grow alongside a country lane in early spring.
Snowdrops grow alongside a country lane in early spring. | Source

Snowdrops and Primroses (Early Spring)

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) pop up from the ground from late January into March along roadside banks and in the woods. They grow from a small bulb and have pretty, white, bell-shaped flowers with slender, glossy-green leaves. They are often said to be the first sign that spring is on its way,

Primroses (Primula vulgaris) are another herald of spring, with their pretty, pale, yellow, five-petalled flowers that can be seen flowering from March to May along roadside verges and in deciduous woodlands.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pictured here are some bluebell woods in Dorset. An English bluebell can be differentiated from its Spanish cousin by its drooping habit.
Pictured here are some bluebell woods in Dorset.
Pictured here are some bluebell woods in Dorset. | Source
An English bluebell can be differentiated from its Spanish cousin by its drooping habit.
An English bluebell can be differentiated from its Spanish cousin by its drooping habit. | Source

Bluebells

Native English bluebells (Endymion non-scriptus) are primarily woodland flowers that provide a beautiful splash of blue. They can be found in huge swathes throughout Dorset's woodlands, on open downs and along the roadside. Large patches of bluebells often give off a lovely delicate scent, similar to that of hyacinths.

English bluebells have a limited range and differ slightly from the cultivated variety, or Spanish bluebells. The English variety is slightly smaller and has a drooping habit as all the "bells" grow more or less along one side of the stem rather than all around it as in the Spanish variety. There is some concern that cultivated bluebells are hybridising with English bluebells in the wild.

Foxgloves are abundant during the summer months in woodlands, field margins and hedgerows.
Foxgloves are abundant during the summer months in woodlands, field margins and hedgerows. | Source

Foxgloves

Wild foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are a tall and striking perennial with deep pink spikes of large tubular flowers. They can be seen from June to September, and grow almost anywhere from woodlands to field margins and hedgerows. Foxgloves also grow well in gardens and are a wonderful flower for bees and nectar-feeding insects.

Wild garlic (white flowers) grow amongst bluebells on a densely populated bank. You can smell the garlic from quite a ways away, and the leaves of this plant are edible.
Wild garlic (white flowers) grow amongst bluebells on a densely populated bank. You can smell the garlic from quite a ways away, and the leaves of this plant are edible. | Source

Wild Garlic

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) has broad, strongly garlic-scented leaves and typical, round, allium-type white flowers. It is a very pretty plant that flowers in May and is often seen in woody glades and along shady roadside banks. The leaves are edible and can be used in place of garlic in many recipes, although the flavour is a little milder than that of cultivated garlic.

Red campion (the pink flowers in the foreground) grow amongst harts-tongue ferns along a roadside.
Red campion (the pink flowers in the foreground) grow amongst harts-tongue ferns along a roadside. | Source

Red Campion

Red campion (Silene dioica) is often seen growing along roadside banks during spring and early summer, with its lovely deep pink five-petalled flowers standing out against a lush green backdrop.

Cow Parsley

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is one of the most commonly seen flowers along roadsides; it towers above all the others with its large umbelliferous white sprays of flowers from May to June.

Wild honeysuckle flowers grow in a hedgerow.
Wild honeysuckle flowers grow in a hedgerow. | Source

Climbing Plants

Climbing plants that can be seen growing amongst the hedgerow include wild honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), with its sweet scented and very pretty yellow flowers; wild clematis (Clematis vitalba ), which is recognisable by its hairy seed heads that give it the common-name of "old man's beard", and the dog-rose (Rosa canina), a classic pink single-petalled climbing rose.

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This is a common spotted orchid. Pyramidal orchids grow on a grassy hillside.
This is a common spotted orchid.
This is a common spotted orchid. | Source
Pyramidal orchids grow on a grassy hillside.
Pyramidal orchids grow on a grassy hillside. | Source

Orchids

It is always an exciting moment to find a rare orchid. Those found in Dorset include the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), the spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

It took me a while to find any orchids to photograph, but eventually, I managed to find these lovely flowers on a high chalky Dorset hillside amongst a host of other beautiful meadow flowers. Orchids have very specialised needs, so you need to know where and when to look for them. The common spotted and pyramidal orchids pictured above flower between June and August.

Wildflower Reference Book

Fitter, R., Fitter, A. and Blamey, M. (1980) The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins, London.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      A lovely journey around your countryside. Thanks for taking me along. A wild orchid? That is something I have never seen in the state of Washington where I live. I have always found them to be hard to grow, so I'm a bit surprised how prolific they are in the wild where you are. Will wonders never cease? :)

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      2 months ago from Southwest England

      Wild flower walks - still my favourite pastime.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I just love wild flowers, and you have some pretty ones...ours are so different here. The world is a lovely place!

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      7 years ago from Southwest England

      This hub gets a little longer every time I find a new wild flower to photograph - I couldn't resist adding the orchids that I found recently!

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      7 years ago from Southwest England

      Hub updated in July 2013 to include a couple of new pictures.

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      7 years ago from Southwest England

      thanks sgbrown. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I love walking around my local countryside to see and photograph the wild flowers, and am glad to share my experience with those who appreciate it :)

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Walking through the country is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking at all the wildflowers, especially in spring. This was a lovely walk, your pictures are beautiful! Voted up and beautiful! :)

    • profile image

      Olde Cashmere 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this enjoyable hub, beautiful photos as well. Voted up, interesting, and beautiful :)

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      8 years ago from Southwest England

      Updated with a couple of new pictures, May 2012

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Nothing beats walking through an English woodland when its covered in its carpet of Bluebells. Great article.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love Dorset and your hub has reminded me I need to visit there again soon!

      Your pictures and descriptions of the flowers are just lovely, thank you.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Your descriptions of the wildflowers in Dorset make me want to visit! I love the photograph of the bluebells along the path - it just reminds me of a lovely springtime walk in the woods! I'm so glad that Davenmidtown introduced us to you through his hub!

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      IF: One of my favorite pastimes is to wonder about and discover the native plants. This is a great hub because it brings you right to plants we would not otherwise encounter!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Imogen :)

      I enjoyed that very much :)

      I have loved wild flowers since I was a very young child and I particularly remember the ones I saw on holiday in Devon.

      I was given a wild flower book for my 7th or 8th birthday and, ever since, I have kept one with me during holidays.

      This hub took me right back :)

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 

      9 years ago

      Thank you for the textual and visual treat of sharing the beauty of your area. Your photos show such lush green growth, but even here in the high desert of Arizona where temperatures are usually around 100 degrees this time of year, we enjoy native plants that have red, yellow and purple flowers. Flowers are amazing

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