Rare flowers: seven to spot this summer
The countryside is full of life in the sunny summer months. It’s the perfect time to start looking out for unusual blooms on your walks.
Here are seven of the rarest flowers you might be lucky enough to spot this summer
Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)
Not a grass at all, this herbaceous plant is mostly found in damp pastures, on moors and marshes, often in the Fens and the Norfolk Broads.
Grass-of-Parnassus has a cup shaped flower with five white petals featuring translucent green stripes. The flowers have five cream coloured anthers surrounded by 5 yellow stamens. The flowers are cupped by dark green heart shaped leaves.
The flowering stems are square and leafless and are sometimes twisted. Large, spade shaped leaves at the base of the stem look like they are being pierced by the flower stalk.
Early spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes)
The early spider orchid is a very localised species, found only on the south coast of England, in Dorset, Sussex and Kent.
The flowers have two yellow-green petals which look like wings with brown edges. These curve towards the spider-like brown flower. The bottom of the flower has a wide lip with a notch at the tip. It is dark brown in colour with a lighter brown glaze in the centre and a milky-blue scarf-like strip around the ‘neck’.
Each stem features two to seven flowers and can grow up to 20cm tall.
Mountain avens (Dryas octopetala)
The mountain avens grows densely on higher ground in mountainous areas, particularly in the Pennines, Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands.
The flowers have eight, white, oblong shaped petals which taper to a point at the end. They have yellow stamens, anthers and pollen. They grow on brown coloured, short, woody stems.
The leaves are small and leathery with oval teeth around the edge. They are dark green and glossy on top, but light green and velvety underneath.
Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea)
Lady orchid grows in woodlands, on woodland edges and in meadows. It is most commonly found in Kent, Sussex and Oxfordshire . Its name comes from the shape of its flowers.
The flower petals look like ladies with white or pale pink skirts, sometimes with purple spots. There are thin arm-like petals above the broad skirt shape. The flower sepals are hooded and purple coloured.
The lady orchid can grow from between 30-100 cm tall and there can be up to 200 flowers on one spike. Fleshy, bright green leaves form a rosette shape around the base of the spike. The leaves can be up to 15cm long, broad and oblong shaped and taper to a point.
Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis)
The marsh mallow is found on coastal areas in the south and west of England. The plant was once used to make the confectionary of the same name.
The saucer shaped flowers are five petalled and grow in clusters. The petals are pink through to bluish-purple.
The flowers grow on strong, wiry stems with broad, soft and hairy, grey-green lobed leaves.
Fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera)
The fly orchid is found in deciduous woodland and scrub. It is rare in the UK but can be seen in Lancashire and the Anglesey Fens in Wales.
The fly-like flowers point downwards. They have three light green sepals and one insect shaped petal. The lower lobe of the petal is split into two stumpy ‘legs’, the upper part has two short drooping ‘arms’ and a small ‘head’ with two long ‘antennae’. The top of the petal is very shiny and has an iridescent blue section in the middle.
The stems are very spindly and can stand up to two feet tall with 10-20 beetroot or brown coloured flowers on short, bulging stalks, all facing in different directions. The broad leaves at the base are shiny on the upperside.
Spreading bellflower (Campanula patula)
The spreading bellflower grows on the sunny banks and sides of tracks in open woodland or on the woodland edges. It is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) redlist as endangered and occurs mainly on the Welsh borders and in the West Midlands.
It is called ‘spreading’ because of the large flower with their widely spread petals. The flowers are blue and star-like with five lobes. White flowers are very rare.
The stems stand 25-80cm tall and the branches are also well spaced. The leaves at the base of the stem have short stalks and those on the stem grow alternately.