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Early spring flowers: flowering plants and shrubs

Snowdrops are a sign that spring is on its way. (Photo: M Barton/WTML)
Snowdrops are a sign that spring is on its way. (Photo: M Barton/WTML)

The days are starting to grow longer and signs of spring are beginning to show. At this time of year, early spring flowering plants and shrubs can be found in a range of environments such as woodlands, grasslands, and gardens. Here are some to look out for when out and about.

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Snowdrops are a non-native and grow from bulbs. They have three leaves and a single flowering stem with white bell shaped flowers. They flower from January to March and can be found in deciduous woodland, parks, gardens, verges and meadows. They are not to be confused with summer snowflake and spring snowflake.

Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)

The lesser celandine is a native plant with yellow star-like flowers, 8 to 12 petals and dark heart-shaped leaves. It flowers from March to May and tends to grow on damp woodland paths, stream banks and ditches, in hedgerows, meadows and gardens. It can be confused with the winter aconite and the greater celandine.

Damp woodland is ideal habitat for lesser celandine. (Photo: R Becker/WTML)
Damp woodland is ideal habitat for lesser celandine. (Photo: R Becker/WTML)
Wood anemone are white with a pink tinge (Photo: R Becker/WTML)
Wood anemone are white with a pink tinge (Photo: R Becker/WTML)

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

The wood anemone is a low-growing native plant. Its leaves usually have three lobes and flowers are distinct with white petals and yellow anthers. It flowers from March to May and can be found in deciduous woodland, by hedgerows and in meadows. It can be confused with wood sorrel.

Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

The bluebell is a native plant that is easily recognised by the intense blue petals and white-cream coloured pollen. They flower from mid-April to May and can be found in broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and fields. It can be confused with the non-native Spanish bluebell.

Bluebells are perhaps our most iconic woodland flower (Photo: Adrian Ashworth/WTML).
Bluebells are perhaps our most iconic woodland flower (Photo: Adrian Ashworth/WTML).

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The name cowslip possibly comes from this flower's habit of growing in cattle pasture. (Photo: M Barton/WTML)
The name cowslip possibly comes from this flower's habit of growing in cattle pasture. (Photo: M Barton/WTML)

Cowslip (Primula veris)

Cowslips have golden yellow, bell-shaped flowers with five petals and dark green wrinkled leaves. They can be found in meadows, on grassland, verges and in gardens. They tend to flower from April to May. They are not to be confused with oxlip and false oxlip.

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Wood Sorrel is a native plant that has distinctive trefoil leaves with three heart-shaped lopes and white flowers with five petals and purple veins. They flower from April to May and can be found in woodlands, shady hedgerows and growing from the moss of fallen logs.

Wood sorrel often grows on mossy logs. (Photo: WTPL/Simon Clark)
Wood sorrel often grows on mossy logs. (Photo: WTPL/Simon Clark)
The bulbs of ramsons are a favoured food of wild boar and even brown bears. (Photo: WTML)
The bulbs of ramsons are a favoured food of wild boar and even brown bears. (Photo: WTML)

Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

Also know as wild garlic, ramsons is a native plant with flowers that have six petals and a leafless stalk. The leaves grow from the base of the plant and have a garlic scent. They tend to grow in deciduous woodland, calcareous (chalky) soil, scrub and hedgerows, but prefer damp areas. They are not to be confused with lily of the valley.

Wood forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)

This native plant has a hairy stem with narrow oval leaves. Its flowers tend to be in clusters. They have five petals and are blue with a white or orange centre. Wood forget-me–not flowers from April to June and can be found on woodland rides and edges and in ancient woodland. They are most common in the south and east of England.

Forget-me-nots are a memorable woodland flower. (Photo: iStock/Tuutikka)
Forget-me-nots are a memorable woodland flower. (Photo: iStock/Tuutikka)
Common dog violet can grow in many habitats. (WTPL/John Duncan)
Common dog violet can grow in many habitats. (WTPL/John Duncan)

Common dog violet (Viola riviniana)

The common dog violet is native to the UK and can be identified by its purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves. Its flowers are similar to those of pansies. It flowers from April through until June and can be found across the UK in grassland areas, farmland, heathland, gardens and woodlands.

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis)

Commonly known as lady’s smock, the cuckooflower is a plant native to the UK. Its leaves grow at the base of the stem. Its flowers are small and delicate and have four pale pink or mauve flowers. The cuckooflower flowers from April to June and is widespread, but is most commonly found in grassland and gardens.

The blooming of the cuckooflower was thought to coincide with the arrival of the first cuckoo birds in spring. (Photo: WTPL/Brian Poots)
The blooming of the cuckooflower was thought to coincide with the arrival of the first cuckoo birds in spring. (Photo: WTPL/Brian Poots)
February daphne is also known as mezereum. (Photo: iStock/Dace Znotina)
February daphne is also known as mezereum. (Photo: iStock/Dace Znotina)

February daphne (Daphne mezereum)

This shrub typically grows in calcareous woodland and its common name is a nod to its early flowering. Come February, it produces beautiful pink, lilac and violet flowers with a pleasant fragrance. Its berries should never be eaten as they are highly toxic to humans. This is not a problem for birds such as the song thrush, however, which readily feed on the fruit.

As signs of spring gradually appear over the coming weeks, pay extra attention to your surroundings and see how many of these flowers you can spot.

You can help us monitor the impact of climate change on wildlife.

Tell us which wildflowers you've seen in bloom.