The 12 wildflowers you can safely pick

The 12 wildflowers you can safely pick


Posted 13th April


Wildflowers make a beautiful sight - here, Plantlife have compiled a list of the 12 wildflowers that you can safely pick

1 Daisy (Bellis perennis)

Who hasn't picked a daisy and marvelled at its beauty? The 'day's-eye' can be found blooming virtually all year round, yet in spring, it can astonish us with its sheer quantity. They have also been used by children for generations, through daisy chains, and being looped into bracelets, necklaces and headbands. You can also make wonderful 'daisy caterpillars' by taking a long-stemmed daisy and threading it's stalk onto the flowers of other daisies (to do this, pinch their stems close to the head to reveal a small hole first). There are also 'Australian daisies' where the stalk is being pushed back through the flower - and, of course, you can tell whether "he loves me, he loves me not" by pulling the individual petals off in turn - the last remaining petal reveals the answer.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

2 Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

You'll often see dandelions turning pastures and lawns yellow, with the early flowers joyously heralding spring's arrival. Despite their familiarity, the flowers are a stunning sight when seen up close - we'd eagerly seek them out if they were remotely rare. All parts of the plant are edible (especially the young leaves and flowers) but the roots famously contain a diuretic. The name of the flower comes from the French 'dent de lion' which means lion's tooth - this refers to the jagged edge of the leaves.

Wonderfully diverse, there are more than 230 species of dandelion in Britain, with a single location having over 30 different sorts. See if you can collect different leaf shapes and flower forms together.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

3 Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

Picking primroses has a long and rich history. This is most likely because they act as a symbol of awakening in spring (they are 'prima rosa' or 'first rose') and grow naturally in the form of a small posy. Part of the tradition was to tie small bunches of flowers (usually with strands of wool or wrapped in moss), and sending them to parents, churches and hospitals at Easter. The idea of giving a small posy of hand-picked wild flowers as a gift may have fallen out of favour but remains one of the most powerful emblems of affection and thoughtfulness to be afforded to each other. They were Disraeli's favourite flower, with Queen Victoria regularly sending him bunches. It's a tradition that still continues today - on Primrose Day (19th April), a bunch will be placed on his statue in front of Westminster Abbey, and on his grave in Hughenden, Buckinghamshire. In Devon, a small commercial enterprise once collected 1,300,000 primrose blooms from a wood within a year. A team of ecologists brought in to assess the effects on the population noted that only a few flowers were collected from any plant. They found that the level of picking was not a threat to the survival of primroses, particularly when the individual plants had a lifespan of 15-25 years.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

4 Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana)

For generations, people picked small bunches of sweet violet (Viola odorata) to give as scented posies, yet this species is not frequent enough to be recommended. Instead, common dog-violets are abundant in hedgerows, woodland edges, waysides, verges, meadows, heaths and moors. Despite lacking the scene of sweet violet, the flowers are astonishingly beautiful close-up. Keep your eyes peeled for their delicately veined lower petal and pale spur behind the flower. Tying a tiny posy of these together make a delightful Easter gift, or the perfect centrepiece for a dinner table.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

5 Greater stichwort (Stellaria holostea)

The pure white flowers of the greater stitchwort have a purity that can be hard to beat. Found in woodlands, hedgerows and waysides, it has very brittle and easy to break stems - if you reach out and lift them, the flowers are likely to come away, almost by accident. Greater stitchwort is associated with pixies - it was once believed that anyone who picked the flowers would become enchanted and led away by the magical creatures, into the bitter-sweet fairy realm.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

6 Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

It can sometimes seem like every road verge in the country is thick with the frothy white flowers of the cow parsley during spring. Mile upon mile grace our roads, providing an exuberant and wonderful display. Tradition has it that they decorated the roads for Queen Anne when she ventured into the countryside in May - this is where the alternative name 'Queen Anne's Lace' comes from. The wonderful wild flower has a unique air, balance and elegance, meaning it works especially well in arrangements. It's subsequently become popular in wedding and church displays, lasting well in a vase for over a week. However, you'll want to make sure you're picking cow parsley and not a similar relative - hemlock has purple-spotted stems and hogweed which has broader leaflets.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

7 Meadow buttercups (Ranunculus acris)

The meadow buttercup always has a golden glow, as the outer layer of cells in the petals traps a thin layer of air, thus creating a mirror-like effect that reflects the yellow pigment below. Buttercups will transform a meadow and field into a beautiful gold sight due to their sheer numbers. A great way to get a wild look is to pick a small bunch with a few grasses.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

8 Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Red campion is a true sparkling jewel. It can be found in woodlands, hedgerows and waysides, with no other flower providing the same shot of reddish pink in spring. The fine colours are enhanced by the company it keeps, which include bluebells, greater stitchwort and cow parsley. The flowers look stunning when used in a mixed arrangement - alternatively, you can create maximum impact by using them on their own. When you pick them, keep your eyes peeled for two types of plant - male plants have flowers with ten yellow pollen-bearing stamens, while female plants have flowers with five white stigmas which will often protrude beyond the petals. Contrary to ancient folklore, you're not actually going to be attacked by a snake if you bring it into a house - however, if you do, the seeds are conveniently believed to cure snake bites (however, don't rely on this...).


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

9 Oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare)

Few flowers capture the spirit of a wildflower quite like the oxeye daisy. Often growing in joyous abundance, they sway in the grasses beneath cloudless skies. Nowadays, we're more likely to see them along road verges, acting like a bright garland on our daily commute. In comparison to the common lawn daisy (Bellis perennis), their flowers don't close at night, instead glowing brightly in the dusk. In fact, they've developed a close connection with the moon, to the extent that many now prefer to call them moon daisies. As a superb cut flower, they last well in water, with only a few of the large flowers needed to make a striking impression. Like the common daisy, you can also tell whether 'he loves me, he loves me not' by pulling the petals off.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

10 Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is common and abundant in grassy places, cropping up in so many locations that most of us will never even give it a second thought. However, if you hold a flower in your hand, you'll soon decide it deserves a closer look. Despite looking otherwise, it's a member of the daisy family and up-close, the flowers are truly exquisite. Each little 'flower' is a posy of smaller flowers which are surrounded by larger 'petals', just like the daisy. Most of the plants produce white flowers, but pinkish and lilac forms are not uncommon and make beautiful sights. It lasts well in water, making it a superb cut flower - its appearance will only be enhanced by its feathery foliage, which is cut into a 'thousand leaves'. However, be careful not to stuff the leaves up too close to your nose; this was traditionally believed to cause nosebleeds.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

11 Common knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

The bright pink pincushions of common knapweed can brighten up virtually any meadow, pasture, verge, wayside and cliff top in Britain. Another member of the daisy family, the flowers are made up of many small, individual flowers, which protrude from a vase-shaped flowerhead - this is actually very hard to touch. This gave rise to another common name, 'hardheads'. Each one is adorned with beautiful brown scales which are worth a second look. Occasional plants have flowers which have an additional ring of outer 'ray' florets in the flower heads, making them particularly striking. In an old traditional game, girls would pick the pink protruding petals from the flowers heads, placing the empty husk in their cleavage while also guessing the name of their future husband. If they managed to guess correctly, the flower would be restored within the hour.


Image courtesy of Trevor Dines / Plantlife

12 Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

From high summer onwards, ditches, wet meadows, river edges and pond sides will turn frothy with the massed flowerheads of meadowsweet. Growing abundantly, their tall stems will reach above reeds and rushes, painting the countryside a creamy white. The foliage is truly beautiful too - each leaf is deeply divided into several leaflets that are white underneath. Both the flowers and leaves are fragrant, making a delightful mix of honey and musk, with an accompanying hint of cucumber. Once upon a time, the flowers would be used to flavour mead (the original name for the flower may have been 'mead-sweet', which then evolved to be meadowswee)t. Once popular as a strewing herb and would be thrown onto stone and soil floors to scent the room, while the flowers are still dried to be used in potpourri. As an excellent cut flower, they add a frothy lightness to any arrangement.


Image courtesy of Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia Commons

Information courtesy of Plantlife 





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