Woodland Springtime Flora

David Broadbent

After the long dreary winter, the first blooms of spring are just what we need to brighten things up. There are no better places to head for flowers at this time of year than our woodlands, as the plants race to flower before the leafy canopy closes above their heads.

Our woods are full of wildflowers, from the carpets of Bluebells, to the tiny obscure Moschatel. We will take a closer look at 20 of these that you can go searching for this spring, some common and some that might take a bit more effort, but will be well worth it. So, Covid-19 rules permitting, grab your GWT Guide to Nature Reserves and head out on a hunt! (Please observe the Countryside Code and never pick any, and also be careful where you stand so as not to trample these delicate beauties).

 

Bluebells

To start, a woodland classic that everybody knows. Widely regarded as our favourite wildflower and little surprise as they can be spectacular, turning whole woodland floors in to a sea of blue. We have half of the world’s population here in the UK.

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves, try Prisk Wood at Penallt, and  Springdale Farm near Usk for particularly good displays.

 

Bluebells

Bluebells - by Andy Karran

Bluebells - by Andy Karran

Early Purple Orchid

Blooming at the same time, or hot on the heels of Bluebells, the Early Purple Orchid is our first orchid to flower here in Gwent. As its name implies it is purple, however you can get pink and white varieties. Apparently when it first opens it has a fantastic scent, this soon becomes unpleasant however.

Where: Equally at home in grasslands as well as woodlands, however It is always nicest to search one out in a woodland, Prisk Wood and Springdale Farm are both good sites.

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

Andy Karran

Sweet Violet

They flower earlier in the year than the more familiar Dog Violet, there should still be some around however. Its flowers can be either purple or white, and it is called “sweet” because it is the only one of our violets with a noticeable scent. Interestingly there is a legend that you can only smell a Sweet Violet once in your life. This isn’t true of course, however there is some truth to it as one of the chemicals in its scent is ionine, which deadens your smell receptors for a while. 

Where: Violets of one sort or another can be found in all of our woodland reserves, try Strawberry Cottage Wood near for Sweet Violets.

Flowering Sweet Violet

Andy Karran

Dog's Mercury

Not the most inspiring of springtime flowers, however a common and often overlooked one. Their leaves can be found most of the year round, with the modest flowers in spring. They are highly poisonous! 

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves, try Springdale Farm and Prisk Woods.

Dog's Mercury

Dog's Mercury

Andy Karran

Ramsons

Also known as Wild Garlic, in some woods it forms white carpets to rival the Bluebells, where this occurs your nose will become aware of its presence long before you see it. 

Where: Can be found in quite a few of our woodland reserves, try Springdale Farm and Piercefield Woods near Chepstow.

Ramsons

Ramsons in flower

Andy Karran

Wood Sorrel

Its leaves can be eaten like Sorrel and have a distinct apple-like taste. It is one of the few flowers that manages to persist in the deep, dark shade of coniferous plantations. Its clover-like leaves are responsive to the weather and fold up in the rain and after dark. 

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves, try Priory Wood at Bettws Newydd and Croes Robert Wood near Trellech.

Wood Sorrel

Wood Sorrel

Andy Karran

Wood Anemone

They are a really good indicator of Ancient Woodland as they spread so slowly (6ft in 100 years!), therefore if the woodland is full of them they must have been there an awful long time. Anemone derives from the Greek for “Windflower”, reflecting how the petals move in a breeze.

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves, try Springdale Farm and Piercefield Woods.

 

Wood Anemone

Wood anemone

Andy Karran

Lesser Celandine

These cousins of buttercups flower very early and probably peak in March, coating woodlands and path edges with their shiny, bright yellow petals.  

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves, however they are an early flowerer so don’t leave it too late.

Lesser Celendine

Lesser Celandine

Andy Karran

Pignut

This is an umbellifer, related to the more familiar Cow Parsley and Hogweed, its umbrellas are just a lot smaller and more delicate. People used to dig them up to eat the nutty flavoured bulb, pigs liked these as well, hence the name.

Where: Can probably be found in most if not all of our woodland reserves, try Springdale Farm and Prisk Wood.

Pignut

Pignut

Andy Karran

Sanicle

This is also an umbellifer, its flowers don’t look as much like an umbrella however. Not such a widespread species but can still be found in many Gwent woodlands. 

Where: Can be found at both Springdale Farm and Strawberry Cottage Wood.

 

Sanicle

Sanicle

Andy Karran

Red Campion

Coming in to flower as the Bluebells begin to fade, the Red Campion is common in hedgerows, verges and woodland glades. A local name for it is “Batchelors Buttons”, perhaps once worn by unmarried men to jazz up their attire.

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves.

Red Campion

Red Campion

Andy Karran

Primrose

A classic spring flower, the sight of a Primrose means spring is surely on the way. Its name derives from the Latin Prima Rosa, meaning first rose, although it is not a rose!

Where: Can be found in many of our woodland reserves, Strawberry Cottage Wood and Priory Wood are two good sites.

Primrose

Primrose

Andy Karran

Yellow Pimpernel

Later flowering than many of the other woodland spring flowers, not in bloom until May and peaking in June.

Where: Can be found in many of our woodland reserves, it likes damp ground and the wetter parts of Croes Robert Wood are a good site.

Yellow Pimpernel

Yellow Pimpernel

Andy Karran

Yellow Archangel

One of the “dead” nettles, meaning it is related to the familiar Stinging Nettle, however it doesn’t sting. The whorls up the stem are really quite attractive yellow flowers that warrant a closer look. There is also a variety with variegated leaves that is an alien, invasive species that has escaped from gardens. 

Where: Can be found in many of our woodland reserves, Springdale Farm and Strawberry Cottage Wood are good sites.

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel

Andy Karran

Toothwort

This quite scarce, odd looking plant has no chlorophyll so has to parasitise tree roots, Hazel is a favourite so look for it at the base of Hazel trees.

Where: It occurs at Piercefield Woods, if you see find it at any of our other reserves we would love to know. Alternatively, you could try visiting Cwm Coed Y Cerrig National Nature Reserve in the north-east of Gwent for this one.

Toothwort

Toothwort

Andy Karran

Wild Daffodil

The national symbol of Wales, the native daffodil is more diminutive than most of the garden varieties. To quote Wordsworth “I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils”.

Where: If you would like to see a host of golden daffodils then visit our Margaret’s Wood Reserve, early April is a great time, although it can vary from year to year.

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil by Andy Karran

Wild Daffodil by Andy Karran

Wood Spurge

Quite an odd-looking flower, it doesn’t have any petals or sepals. In common with other spurges it has a thick, poisonous sap. This doesn’t put off the caterpillars of the Drab Looper moth for which the spurge is its only foodplant. Gwent is a stronghold for this scarce moth species. 

Where: It occurs at Croes Robert and Piercefield Woods, also there is plenty in Loysey Woods immediately adjacent our New Grove Meadows Nature Reserve.

Wood Spurge

Wood Spurge

Andy Karran

Lords and Ladies

This distinctive plant has many evocative names such as Cuckoo-pint, Devils and Angels, Adam and Eve, Wild Arum, Snakes Head and Jack in the Pulpit. Look out for the spike of orange or red berries later in the year.

Where: Can probably be found in all of our woodland reserves.

 

Lords and Ladies

Lords and Ladies

Andy Karran

Moschatel

Also known as the Town Hall Clock because the flower head is cube like with a flower on each side face, there is also a fifth one on the top.

Where: This tiny, unobtrusive plant doesn’t leap out at you, it can probably be found at a few of our woodland reserves however, and certainly at Strawberry Cottage Wood.

 

Moschatel

Moschatel

Andy Karran

Herb Paris

A distinctive looking species, closely related to garden Trilliums. The Paris in its title has nothing to do with France, it relates to the word par, as in equal, referring to the symmetry of the leaves. 

Where: A scarce species but can be found at Prisk Wood and Croes Robert Wood if you are lucky and you get your eye in, they are distinctive but easily blend in with the rest of the woodland flora.

Herb Paris

Herb Paris

Andy Karran

Record and share your sightings!

Let us know how you get on with your woodland wildflower spotting this spring and if possible submit your records to the local record centre, SEWBReC on their website.

Please share on our Gwent Wildlife Spotting page . We will also be posting a different wildflower every “Wildflower Wednesday” on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages until the end of August, so you can continue your botanising all spring and summer.

Happy searching!