Following on from mental health awareness week and to celebrate the fascination of plants day, we wanted to share some interesting facts about some spring flowering common plants you’ll hopefully encounter on your next walk into the local woods.
First of all is a true woodland classic the English Bluebell which is a very pretty sight! Although a pretty sight, it can also be a very tasty for many animals, such as deer and seed predation has been documented for wood mice and bank voles. The English Bluebell is also beneficial for insects as well with woodland butterflies, bees, and hoverflies all feed on their nectar. Bees can ‘steal’ the nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the flower, reaching the nectar without the need to pollinate the flower.
Next up is Herb-Robert, this plant has some great medicinal properties as it’s traditionally been used as an antiseptic, or a treatment for stomach upsets. They have also been used crushed and rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent.
Common Dog Violet
Common Dog Violet provides an important source of food for rare butterflies, including the silver-washed fritillary, the high brown fritillary (one of the most endangered butterflies in England) and the dark green fritillary. Some also use the plant as a host for their eggs. Did you know that the Ancient Greeks used violets in herbal medicine as it was said to help cure skin diseases? (However, this has not been proven).
If you ever spot a wood anemone, the there’s a good chance you’re stood in a ancient woodland! This is because wood anemones are slow-growing species which spreads via rhizomes (horizontal underground stems to you and I!)
Although it has a grand name, Greater Stitchwort is actually better known as Stitchwort. This is a reference to a herbal remedy in which this plant is used allegedly to cure that pain in the side known as ‘stitch’, which afflicts many people when they try to run! Although again not proven, the Greater Stitchwort is very beneficial to many flying insects, including bees, butterflies and moths, which are in search of nectar during the spring.
As a Warwickshire based business, it would be rude not to mention our county’s flower, the Honeysuckle! Honeysuckle is usually pollinated by moths or long-tongued bees and develops bright red berries. It’s also a great home for Dormice as they make their summer nests for their young from honeysuckle bark; they also eat the flowers, which are a good source of energy-rich nectar. It doesn’t stop there! At night time, night-flying moths such as the hummingbird hawk-moth can detect the scent of honeysuckle flowers up to a quarter of a mile away.
Moving over the county border we find Worcestershire’s County flower, the Cowslip! Cowslips are important for wildlife, as their flowers are an early source of nectar for various insects including bees, beetles and butterflies such as the brimstone. Continuing with the medicinal theme, Cowslips were traditionally used to treat sleeping problems as it is said to have a sedative quality, as well as the flowers being used to help treat coughs. Did you know that Cowslip leaves are used in Spanish cooking? It has been said to have a slightly citrusy flavour. The flowers are traditionally used to flavour English country wine.
Lily of the Valley
Last but not least, is the Lily of the Valley! This beautiful flower is another great indicator of ancient woodlands although it can appear in other woodland habitats. The Lily of the Valley is very popular with bees as they are attracted by the plant’s sweet smell and flowers. Did you know that Lily-of-the-valley is a very popular perfume scent and is also grown for its use in floristry? So, you might already be acquainted with the smell!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these woodland plants and the facts about them! If you’d like to learn more about what we do for the environment why not check out our Ecology Services pages for more information.