HEIGHT to 50cm. Attractive hairless, bulbous perennial that grows in woodland and also on coastal cliffs. In wooded areas where the management regime suits its needs (sympathetically coppiced Hazel is ideal) it forms extensive and continuous carpets on the woodland floor. FLOWERS Bell-shaped, with 6 recurved lobes at the mouth, bluish purple (very occasionally pink or white); in 1-sided drooping-tipped spikes (Apr-June). FRUITS Capsules. LEAVES Long, 15mm wide, glossy green and all basal. STATUS Widespread throughout, and sometimes locally abundant.
HEIGHT to 40cm. Bulbous perennial that grows in woods and hedges. Similar to Bluebell but separable by studying leaf size and flower structure. FLOWERS Bell-shaped, bluish purple, the 6 lobes not recurved at the mouth; in spikes that are not 1-sided (May-June). FRUITS Capsules. LEAVES Basal, long and up to 35mm wide. STATUS Garden plant that is naturalised locally. The hybrid H. non-scripta x H. hispanica is more popular in gardens, and more widely naturalised, than Spanish Bluebell. Confusingly, plants show a spectrum of characters intermediate between the two parents.
Field Forget me Not
HEIGHT to 25cm Variable downy, branching annual. Grows in dry grassland, disturbed soil and arable land and verges. FLOWERS 5mm across, with 5 blue lobes, the corolla tube shorter than the calyx; in forked clusters (Apr–June). FRUITS Nutlets. Fruit stalks longer than calyx, which is coated in spreading, hooked hairs. LEAVES Oblong, the basal ones forming a rosette. STATUS Widespread and common, except in the north.
PROSTRATE Mat-forming, downy perennial with creeping stems. Grows in short grassland, sometimes on lawns. FLOWERS 8–10mm across, the corolla 4-lobed and bluish with a white lip; on relatively long, slender stalks arising from leaf axils (Apr–July). FRUITS Seldom produced. LEAVES 5–10mm across, rounded to kidney-shaped, blunt-toothed and short-stalked. STATUS Introduced; now locally common in the south.
HEIGHT to 30cm Attractive, spreading, downy biennial that grows in dry grassland, and on coastal cliffs, heaths and dunes, favouring acid soils and absent from calcareous locations. FLOWERS Sky-blue, in rounded heads, 20–35mm across, on slender stalks (May– Sep). Anthers not projecting (cf. Devil’s-bit Scabious). FRUITS Dry capsules. LEAVES Wavy-edged, hairy at the base, forming a rosette, but narrow on the stem. STATUS Widespread but local, and commonest in the west and near the sea.
HEIGHT to 90cm Creeping perennial with upright flowering stems that are winged below leaf stalks and swollen beneath flower heads. Grows in arable fields and on disturbed ground. FLOWERS In heads 15–30mm across, with bluish outer florets and reddish-purple inner florets (June–Aug). FRUITS Hairless. LEAVES Narrow; basal ones may be lobed. STATUS Formerly a common arable ‘weed’, before modern agricultural herbicides; now virtually extinct on farmland, seen mainly where seed is deliberately scattered.l
PROSTRATE Straggling, hairy, branched annual with reddish stems. Grows on bare soil, cultivated arable fields and disturbed ground. FLOWERS 6–8mm across, the corolla 4-lobed and mainly pale blue, but with white on the lower lip; solitary and on rather long, slender stalks arising from leaf axils (Jan–Dec). FRUITS Broad, flattened capsules, with keeled lobes. LEAVES Pale green, oval, toothed and in pairs. STATUS Probably not native but now widespread and common.
HEIGHT to 20cm Delicate and attractive perennial with creeping stems that root at the nodes, and upright flowering stems that have 2 lines of hairs. Grows in grassy places, in meadows and open woodlands, and on verges. FLOWERS 10–12mm across, the corolla 4-lobed and blue with a white centre; on slender stalks in open, terminal spikes (Apr–June). FRUITS Flattened, hairy, heart-shaped capsules. LEAVES Oval, toothed, hairy, short-stalked. STATUS Widespread and common throughout.
HEIGHT to 2m Biennial of damp and disturbed grassland on heavy soils. Stems are angled, with sharp prickles on the angles. FLOWERS Pinkish purple, in egg-shaped heads 6–8cm long, with numerous spiny bracts; on tall stems (July–Aug). FRUITS Dry, papery; borne in the dry flower heads, and popular with Goldfinches. LEAVES Spine-coated, appearing as rosettes in the first year; in the second year these die back and stem leaves are opposite and joined at the base, the resulting cup collecting water. STATUS Widespread and common in the south; scarce or absent elsewhere.
HEIGHT to 12cm Familiar perennial herb of woodland rides and grassland. FLOWERS 15–25mm across, bluish violet with a blunt, pale spur that is notched at the tip; pointed sepals (Mar–May). FRUITS Egg-shaped. LEAVES Long-stalked, heart-shaped and mainly hairless. STATUS Widespread and locally common throughout.
HEIGHT to 75cm Attractive, hairy, clump-forming perennial of meadows and verges, mostly on base-rich soils. FLOWERS 3–3.5cm across with 5 rounded, bluish-lilac petals; in pairs on stalks (June–Aug). FRUITS Ending in a long ‘beak’. LEAVES Deeply divided into 5–7 jagged lobes. STATUS Locally common, except in SE England, N Scotland and Ireland.
HEIGHT to 90cm Hairy biennial or perennial associated with hedgerows and wayside places. FLOWERS Fragrant, 17–20mm across, with 4 violet or pinkish-white petals; in terminal clusters (May–Aug). FRUITS Long, flattened, curving upwards. LEAVES Narrow, pointed, untoothed, stalked. STATUS Widely naturalised as a garden escape.
Hesperis Vinca major
HEIGHT to 1m Woody, trailing evergreen perennial of woods and hedges. FLOWERS 4–5cm across with 5 bluish-violet lobes that are acutely truncated on the outer margin; on slender stalks, the calyx lobes having hairy margins (Mar–May). FRUITS Capsules. LEAVES Ovate, shiny, dark green, stalked, in opposite pairs. STATUS Naturalised.
HEIGHT to 20cm Creeping, downy perennial with leafy runners that root at intervals and upright flowering stems. Grows in grassy places and woodland rides, on calcareous and neutral soils. FLOWERS 10–15mm long, bluish violet; in dense, cylindrical and terminal heads adorned with purplish bracts and calyx teeth (Apr–June). FRUITS Nutlets. LEAVES Paired, oval. STATUS Widespread, but commonest in the south.