Featured Species

Please click on the pictures to find out more about the wild plants featured. We hope you will be inspired to learn more about them and please also visit our theme pages to find out how these plants are linked to culture and history.

(inula verbarscifolia)

Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

Alder was formerly an important timber tree and has been found in many archaeological sites across Britain and Ireland. Bronze age alder shields are known from County Leitrim and County Down and they are the first tree mentioned in the Welsh poem 'Cad Goddeu - the Battle of the Trees'. Oakbank Iron Age Crannog on Loch Tay was built on alder piles. Alder or Fearn is one of the letters of the Ogham Tree Alphabet and the name Fearn is found in many places names in Scotland and Ireland.

Alpine aster (Aster alpinus)

Alpine catchfly (Lychnis alpina)

Most of the UK population of this beautiful alpine plant is found on one hill top in Angus. The plant favours rocks with a heavy metal content and has been used by prospective miners to indicate ore deposits. It is the county flower for Angus. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg.

Find out more about this plant

Alpine Gentian (Gentiana nivalis)

The snow or alpine gentian is one of our rarest plants, a alpine growing on the slopes of Ben Lawers in Perthshire. It is also found in the Alps and in Scandinavia. It is the county flower or Perthshire and there are three snow gentian flowers on the coat of arms of the municipality of Nord-Aurdal in Oppland county, Norway. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

American aloe (Agave americana)

Angelica sp

Arabian pea (Bituminaria bituminosa)

Arnica species

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

The ash tree is central to Norse mythology (Yggdrassil), the wood is also used for many purposes. Ash is used for the letters Nin and Nuin in the Ogham and Gaelic alphabets. Photo copyright Laurie Campbell.

Aspen (Populus tremula)

Baobab (Adansonia sp)

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera)

The bee orchid is one of our most dramatic native orchids. It prefers well drained grasslands and can be found growing on scrub, railway banks, sand dunes, and quarries. It is the county flower of Bedfordshire. It has also been depicted in illuminated manuscripts. Photo copyright Sue Nottingham.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

The beech is native to the south east England and Wales at least and naturalised all over the UK. Its wood has been widely used for furniture and building, and its nuts used as food and oil for animals and also humans during times of famine. The nuts used to be called 'buck' and the county of Buckinghamshire derived its name from the beech nut. Beech boards were used for writing by the Anglo-Saxons.

Beefsteak mushroom (Fistulina hepatica)

Beet (Beta vulgaris)

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna )

Bindweed (Convolvulaceae)

Birch (Betula species)

Birch gives its name 'Beith' to the first letter of the Ogham and Gaelic tree alphabets. It is one of our most distinctive, useful and versatile trees. The bark has been used for millennia for making containers, including coffins, and can be used as a writing material. The sap can also be used to make wine and the wood is still used for a wide variety of purposes.

Birds-Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculata)

The birds-foot trefoil is a bright and colourful plant of grasslands across Europe. It has many different names including 'boots and shoes', 'cheese cakes', 'Grandmother's slippers', 'Devil's fingers' and 'Lady's pincushion'. Photo copyright Luke Morton

Bird's eye primrose (Primula farinosa)

Black Bryony (Dioscorea communis)

Blackberry (Rubus sp)

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

The blackthorn is one of the first hedgerow blossoms and it used for its wood, as food and medicine. The blackthorn has a mixed reputation as a plant of ill omen, associated with witches and with the Christian crown of thorns, and a useful plant. It is the letter 'Straif' in the Ogham Tree Alphabet. The mayor of Sandwich in Kent uses a blackthorn staff as a badge of office, and it is the clan plant badge of Clan MacQuarrie. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Bladder senna (Colutea arborescens)

Bladder senna (Colutea arborescens)

Bladder wrack (Fucus vesiculosus)

Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)

Blue Alpine Sow Thistle (Cicerbita alpina)

This rare alpine beauty is known from only a handful of sites in Scotland but occurs in the mountain ranges of Europe.

Find out more about this plant

Bluebell - Wild Hyancinth (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Voted Britain's favourite wildflower in a public vote in 2002, the UK has around 50% of the world population, making our bluebell woods internationally important. Bluebells are also known as fairy flowers, and their roots were used to make glue for medieval arrows and as starch. There was a tradition to wear a bluebell in the lapel on the date of Shakespeare's birthday, 23rd April. It is thought that the 'azured harebell' in Shakespeare's play Cymbeline refers to the bluebell.

Find out more about this plant

Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum)

Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia)

This beautiful plant of wet and damp peaty soils was given its scientific name in honour of Andromeda, the maiden that the hero Perseus rescued from a sea serpent. The habitat for this plant has declined greatly in the past fifty years because of drainage, peat extraction and afforestation. It is the county flower of Kirkcudbrightshire. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage is a plant of the Mediterranean but has been cultivated in Britain for many centuries, including in monastery gardens. Borage is a common feature of 16th and 17th century needlework and it is known as the plant of courage. A borage flower was said to be floated on the stirrup cups of knights departing for the Crusades to give them courage. The bright blue star like flowers are attractive to bees and the leaves and flowers are used in salads and drinks.

Box (Buxus sp)

Bracken (Pteridium)

Bramble - Blackberry (Rubus fructicosus)

The bramble flowers appear on its rambling branches in late summer and the juicy black fruits are collected in autumn. It is known to have been a forage plant since at least the Neolithic and brambling is still popular today. There is a tradition that it is unlucky to collect bramble/blackberries after MIchaelmas Day because after that date the Devil or the fairies spit on them.

Find out more about this plant

Broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Broom flowers throughout the year and its common name probably arises from its use to make brooms and its old English name 'brom'. It has also been used medicinally. It was the plant that gives it names to the Plantagenate Dynasty, from its French name (Plante de Geste). It is also the county flower of Glasgow. (Picture copyright Andrew Gagg)

Bulrush (Cyperaceae)

Buttercup (Ranunculus species)

Fields bright with buttercups are a familiar summertime sight throughout the British Isles. Children use them to test each other's fondness for butter by looking for a yellow reflection when held under the chin. These may be the buttons or cuckoo buds of Shakespeare. Photo copyright Ray Woods

Butterwort (Pinguicula)

Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)

Cat's ear (Hypochaeris sp ())

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

Chamomile is still frequently used as a herbal tea and was one of the sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons. It is under threat in many areas of Britain due to loss of grazing habitat. It has also been used as a strewing herb, for shampoos and to flavour beers and sherries.

Find out more about this plant

Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)

Growing in several places in the Mendip Hills, it is most profuse at the site of its discovery 300 years ago in Cheddar Gorge. The strongly clove-scented flowers are attractive to butterflies and day-flying moths. The Cheddar pink is the county flower of Somerset. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Cherry tree (Prunus sp)

Chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea)

Chicory (cichorium intibus)

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Clover (white and red) (Trifolium repens & T. pratense)

Clovers are well known as a nectar plant and were formerly known as 'honeystalks' or 'honeysuck'. They are often used to symbolise a healthy and well managed countryside as in Shakespeare's Henry V. The white clover is one of the Clan Plant Badge of Clan Sinclair. Finding a four leaved clover is a sign of good luck. Clover is one of the possible identifications of the Irish National Symbol, the shamrock, which legend says St Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity. Photo credit Lliam Rooney

Find out more about this plant

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)

The columbine is often associated with Christ in Christian art as the flower is supposed to resemble a dove. It has also been used in the heraldry of the House of Lancaster and the Derby Family.

Comfrey (Symphytum)

Common centaury (Centaurium erythraea)

Common houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum)

Common hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)

Common milkwort (Polygala vulgaris)

Common tormentil (Potentilla erecta)

Corncockle (Agrostemma githago )

A plant of arable fields since the origins of farming, it is extinct or declining in many countries across Europe. It is part of works by Chaucer, Shakespeare, John Clare, and is one of William Morris's textile designs.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus )

The cornflower is another iconic species of the British and European landscape that has suffered great losses in the past 50 years. Its scientific name comes from the Sicilian nymph Cyane who melted into a pool after failing to stop Hades abducting Persephone. Tutankhamen was buried in a garland of cornflowers and it is the flower of remembrance in France

Find out more about this plant

Cotton grass (Eriophorum species)

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Cowslip (Primula veris )

Cowslips are one of our most popular spring flowers. They are the county flower for Northamptonshire, Worcestershire, and Surrey. In Shakespeare they are used as analogy for a well managed state in Henry V, compared to the golden coated pensioners of Queen Titania, and as a bed for Ariel in the Tempest. They are also known as St Peter's keys.

Find out more about this plant

Cranesbill (Geranium species)

Crocus sp

Cuckoo Flower - Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis)

The delicate cuckoo-flower, or lady's smock or milk maids, grows in wet meadows in spring time and Shakespeare writes that ‘lady-smocks all silver-white…Do paint the meadows with delight’ in Love’s Labours Lost. It was once cultivated and sold in markets as a salad plant and it leaves have a very high concentration of Vitamin C. It also provides food for the orange tip butterfly. The cuckoo flower is the county flower of Cheshire and Sir Frycheiniog (Brecknockshire). Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Cucurbitaceae family


Cyclamen (Cyclamen graecum)

Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Daffodil (wild) (Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils were once common wildflowers of the Welsh and English countryside but suffered a decline in the mid-nineteenth century. Wordsworth was inspired by their beauty to write his well known poem about them. The daffodil is a national symbol of Wales and is worn on St David's Day. It is the county flower of Gloucestershire. Daffodils or Narcissus are associated with Pluto, the God of the Underworld, and was one of the flowers supposedly picked by Persephone when she was abducted. In Islamic tradition the narcissus is said to be food for the soul. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Daisy (Bellis perennis, Leucanthemum vulgare)

The humble daisy has a long and illustrious history in medicine, literature, art and heraldry. It was used as a wound herb and Chaucer called it the fairest flower of the meadow. Its name comes from 'day's eye'.

Find out more about this plant

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The common dandelion is a favourite with children who like to blow the seeds from the seed head. It has been used for food and drink (burdock and dandelion beer), and also as a medicine. The common name is derived from the French (dent de lion) or lion's tooth. Photo copyright Kim Lehoucka

Dog Rose (Rosa canina )

The dog rose is still a common sight in the British countryside and provides the rosehips which were so actively collected in World War II to make Vitamin C rich syrup. The rose is symbolically important in many cultures across the world and signifies love, purity, and fragility. Robert Burns counted the dog rose among his favourite flowers. It is the county flower of Hampshire.

Find out more about this plant

Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus)

Early Gentian (Gentianella anglica)

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)

Elder (Sambucus nigra)

The flowers of the elder have long been used to make drinks and their berries to make jams. It gives its name to 'Ruis' one of the letters of the Ogham and Gaelic alphabets. The tree has botth good and bad associations in Britain and Ireland. It is sometimes said to be a tree of ill omen because there is a tradition that Judas Iscariot hung himself from an elder, but it is also noted for its protective powers. In the Harry Potter novels, the most powerful wand of all, and that of Albus Dumbledore is made from elder wood. Photo Copyright Andrew Gagg

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel has long been considered an important medicinal and powerful plant. It was one of the nine sacred Anglo-Saxon herbs and Prometheus is said to have smuggled fire to humans in its stem.

Fiel pea (Pisum arvense)

Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas )

The blood red petals of poppy are a common site across Eurasia. It is the symbol of remembrance in Britain, found on Egyptian tombs paintings, flower of love in Persian, & sacred to Aphrodite & Ceres. Country Flower for Norfolk & Essex. Common in Britain

Find out more about this plant

Field scabious (Knautia arvensis)

Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago)

The fir clubmoss grows in acidic heathland, grassland and bog. It has been used as medicine and as a pesticide for animals, although it is potentially poisonous. It has also been used as a dye mordant, and for making fireworks. It is the Clan Plant Badge of Clan MacRae.


Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Forget-me-not (Myosotis species)

Forget-me-not is said to have been given its name from a German legend of a knight who falls into a river whilst picking it and calls out to his lady not to forget him. The name is used in many of the languages of Europe and is frequently used a symbol of love.

Foxglove (Digitalis pupurea )

A common plant of forests and waysides, all parts of it are deadly poisonous. It is often associated with fairies and witches and is often used in detective stories and thrillers as a poison. It is also used as a heart medicine. County flower of Birmingham, Leicestershire, Argyll and Monmouthshire.

Fritillary (Snake's Head) (Fritillaria meleagris)

The beautiful fritillary was cultivated in Britain in the 1500's but there is debate as to whether some populations are native. The distinctive chequeboard patterned flower is found on the flood meadows of the Thames. There was a tradition to take nosegays of the flower to old people in these areas on Frawcup Sunday in May. The name Fritillaria is said to have come from the Latin 'fritillus' or dice-box for its distinctive marking. The plant is also know as Lazarus bells. It is often depicted in art including by William Morris and Charles Rennie MacIntosh. It is the county flower of Oxfordshire. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Find out more about this plant

Fuchsia (Fuchsia sp)

Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)

Garlic sp

Gentianaceae sp

Ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum)

Gillyflower (Dianthus species)

The carnation and its wild relatives including Maiden Pink, Deptford pink and Cheddar Pink, have always been a particular favourite in Britain for many centuries and prized for their beauty. Mercutio in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet states that he is 'the pink of courtesy'.

Find out more about this plant

Gladiolus species ()

Gorse or Furze (Ulex europaeus)

There is a saying that 'when gorse is out of bloom kissing's out of season' - not such bad news as gorse is in bloom most of the year. It was burnt as a fuel and has been used as a yellow dye. Gorse is the county flower of Belfast. Furze is one of the Clan Badge Plants of Clan Sinclair.

Find out more about this plant

Grapevines (Vitis species)

Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)

The plant is not a grass but ancient Greek tradition tells us that the cattle on Mount Parnassus developed a taste for it, hence it was an 'honorary' grass. This graceful plants of wild, wet regions is the county flower of both Cumbria and Sutherland. The plant is also the symbol of Clan MacLea (also known as Highland Livingstone Clan) because it was said to be the favourite flower of the Irish missionary St Moluag, whose staff the clan chief holds.

Find out more about this plant

Greater knap weed (Centaurea scabiosa)

Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)

Hairy Bittercress (Carmina hirsuta)

Hairy bittercress is one possible identification of the 'stune' in the Anglo-Saxon nine herb charms.

Harebell - Scottish bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Known as the Scottish bluebell, the English name is said to have arisen as it is often found in dry pastures loved by hares. It has many names including cuckoo shoe, witch bells, or old man's bell. In County Antrim it is a fairy plant, mearacan puca, the goblin or Puck's thimble. It is the county flower of Dumfriesshire, Yorkshire and County Antrim.

Find out more about this plant

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Hazel tree (Corylus species)

Heather (Calluna vulgaris and Erica species)

In upland areas heather has long been used as a versatile resource, having been used for bedding, brooms, thatch, fuel, baskets and dye, as well as providing nectar for honey, and as a source of heather ale. White heather is traditionally believed to bring good fortune and there is another tradition that white heather grows in the places where the blood of the Picts was not spilt. Heather is the county flower of Staffordshire.

Find out more about this plant

Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Hemlock has had centuries of association with the devil and witchcraft, no doubt encouraged by its poisonous notoriety. Shakespeare's witches in Macbeth are brewing a potion of hemlock and yew on their blasted heath. It has also been used medicinally. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)

Henbane has strong magical connotations at least as far back as Assyrian times. It has long been used in medicine, in witchcraft, and as a poison. Dr. Crippen used a poison extracted from henbane to murder his wife in 1910. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Henbane bell (Scopolia carniolica)

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

Holly is associated with Christmas time and winter decorations. It has a long tradition as a protective plant and it is considered unlucky to take a holly tree out of your own garden. Holly features in the legend of Tristram and Isolde and Harry Potter's wand is made from holly wood. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)

The honeysuckle or woodbine is a favourite of artists and writers. Its stems were sometimes used as rope and it is often used a symbol of love, and fertility. It was part of the private motif of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Find out more about this plant

Horsetail (Equisetum species)

The horsetails are living fossils, plants that have been on earth for hundreds of millions of years. It is one of the plants in the coal deposits of the Carboniferous period.

Iris (yellow) or Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus)

Iris means 'rainbow' in Greek and is named for the Greek messenger of the gods, Iris, who had golden wings and was said to travel on a rainbow. The flower is also one of the possible origins of the 'fleur de lys' symbol and stylised versions have been used decoratively for centuries. The yellow Iris or yellow flag, is the county flower of Wigtonshire. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Ivy (Hedera helix)

Ivy was one of the symbols of the god of wine Dionysus, and it was used as a symbol for inns in England. Ivy was supposed to smother the effects of wine in the same way that it smothered trees, and ivy leaves were often depicted on the stems of wine glasses and goblets. Ivy is the Clan Plant of the House of Gordon. Photo copyright Ray Woods

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Jerusalem Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi)

Jujube (ziziphus jujuba)

Juniper sp

Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum)

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris/spp )

A common plant found in gardens and open land it was believed to give dew that could be used to make the philiospher's stone and turn base metals into gold, it was also called 'Our Lady's Mantle' is reference to the Virgin Mary.

View factsheet

Laurestine (Viburnum tinus)

Lavandula sp (Lavender)

Lemon tree (C. limon)

Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Lichen species

Lily species ()

Lords-and-ladies species

Lupin (Lupinus species)

Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Marigold (Calendulla arvensis)

Marjoram (Majorana hortensis)

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

Meadowgrass (Poa species)

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria )

A common plant of waysides and meadows it has a pleasant smell and was used as a tomb offering in the Bronze Age, features in Scottish, Irish & Welsh mythology, and was the favourite strewing herb of Elizabeth I.

Milkweed (Euphorbia pelpus)

Mint (Mentha sp)

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe has long been regarded as a powerful magical and medicinal plant, capable of growing rootless high up in the branches of trees. The Romans wrote that it was the most sacred plant of the Druids, especially when it grew on oak trees. Mistletoe was the weapon used to kill Baldur the Beautiful of Norse Mythology. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is well known in Britain but it was also know as 'all heal' for its medicinal properties. Mistletoe is the county flower of Herefordshire.

Find out more about this plant

Monkshood or Wolfbane (Aconitum napellus)

The name monkshood derives from the cowl shape of it flowers and the name wolfbane from its use for killing wolves. It has been a well known as a poison for centuries. There is a tradition of Greek Mythology that the plant grew from the spittle of the three headed dog Cerberus when he was dragged to the upper world by Hercules. It is also known as Thor's helmet in Norse mythology. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Mountain avens (Dryas octopetala)

The mountain avens gives it name to the Younger and Older Dryas periods of the Ice Age when its pollen was particularly abundant. It is a stunning artic alpine plant found in many of the mountain systems of Europe. It is the national flower of Iceland and the province flower of the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Mouse Thorn (Ruscus hypoglossum)

Mugwort (wormwood) (Artemisia vulgaria/spp )

Mugwort was one of the 9 scared Anglo-Saxon herbs, it was used as protection against evil spirits and associated with St John's Eve. The scientific name Artemisia comes from its association with the Greek goddess Artemis who was supposedly taught its healing powers by Chiron the centaur. It was also supposed to cure weariness if put in the shoes

Myrtle (Myrtus communis)

Nettle (Urtica dioica )

A common but often unwanted plant of waste places it was formerly a very important plant providing fibres, textiles, food and medicine. It was one of the 9 sacred Anglo-Saxon herbs. It is still used as a spring green and to make soups and there are a few products available made from nettle fibres.

Oak (Quercus species)

The oak has been renowned as a tree of strength and nobility is many cultures, it is specifically mentioned in the Bible as such, and is often used in British heraldry. It is associated with thunder gods including Thor, Zeus & Jupiter. Many of the heritage trees of Britain are oaks and it the clan badge of the Camerons.

Old man's beard (Clematis vitalba)

Olive tree (Olea europaea)

Onionweed (Asphodelus fistulosus)

Orange Hawkweed (Fox & Cubs) (Pilosella aurantiaca)

The orange hawkweed or fox and cubs is a distinctive orange plant naturalised in Britain by the 1700s.

Orange tree (Citrus sinensis L.)

Orchid species

There are many types of native orchid in the UK with a wide range of colours and shapes. The long purples mentioned by Shakespeare in Hamlet may be an orchid such as Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula). The orchids were formerly known as Satyrion and traditionally they were food for the Satyrs and associated with sexual excess. Photo copyright (early purple orchid) Beth Newman

Origanum species

Paeonia species

Pansy ( Viola tricolor)

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

This rare and beautiful flower blooms around Easter time which gives it the name 'Pasque' flower. It has been a famous Cambridgeshire flower since its discovery on the Gog Magog hills in 1660. Today it often grows on ancient earthworks and legend has it that it grows where the blood of Viking, Danish or even Roman warriors was spilt. It is the county flower of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Find out more about this plant

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Periwinkle (Catharanthus sp)

Pheasant's Eye (Adonis annua)

The pheasant's eye is a beautiful but now very rare plant of arable fields. It is named for the Adonis rites of Mesopotamia and Greece, celebrated in honour of the beautiful youth Adonis whose death and rebirth was central to the rites of his cult and the Adonis gardens.

Find out more about this plant

Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

Pink Ballerina Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)

The shape of this beautiful mushroom of old grasslands and lawns is similar to ballerinas' tutus. The UK has over half of the world population of this delicate fungi.

Find out more about this plant

Plantain (Plantago species)

Plantains are a common sight of roadsides and waysides. They have been used medicinally and were one of the nine sacred Anglo-Saxon herbs. They were also used in divination and as childrens games.

Find out more about this plant

Poppy (Papaveraceae)

Poppy anemone (Anemone coronaria)

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

The primrose is one of the most welcome flowers of spring all over Europe, and its name means first rose. The flower have been gathered for centuries for pleasure, medicine, cosmetics, conserves, and wine. It has been used in literature as a symbol of spring, beauty, and excellence and also of pleasure such as Shakespeare's 'primrose path of dalliance'. Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to Disraeli's funeral. The primrose is the county flower of Devon. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Find out more about this plant

Purple cyclamen (Cyclamen purpurascens)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Quaking grass (Briza maxima)

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)

The ragged robin is a delicate flower of damp meadows. It was one of the flowers (crow-flowers) that Ophelia was wearing when she drowned. It is associated with the feast of Saint Barnabas on the 11th of June.

Ragwort (Ragweed) (Senecio jacobea)

Ragwort is a widespread and distinctive plant of both town and country. It is an important food source for insects but poisonous to horses and often removed from land where horses graze or hay is made. Robert Burns makes use of an old tradition that witches and warlocks rode on horses of ragwort or ragweed in his poem 'Address to the Deil'. John Clare wrote of the plant 'Ragwort thou humble plant with tattered leaves, I love to see thee come and litter gold'. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

Ranunculus species

Red campion (Silene dioica)

Reed (Phragmites communis)

Rock cress (Aubrieta deltoidea)

Rockrose (Cistus incanus)

Rose (Rosa species)

There are several wild rose species both native and naturalised in the UK, including Rosa canina (the dog rose) and its hybrids, the Red Rose of Lancaster (Rosa gallica), the soft downy rose (Rosa mollis), the burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), the sweet briar or eglantine (Rosa rubiginosa). They are culturally important as symbols of love and purity, they have long been used in perfumes and the rosehips of the dog rose are still used to make teas, jams and cordials.

Rosebay Willow Herb (Epilobium angustifolium)

Rosebay Willow Herb is the county flower of London. It was one of the first plants to colonise bomb sites after World War II and is sometimes called 'bomb weed'.

Find out more about this plant

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary comes from southern Europe and grows wild as a relict of cultivation in Britain and Ireland. However it has a long cultural tradition in these countries. It is still used as a flavouring, perfume and as incense and has many connections with love including love potions and spells, fidelity and remembrance of loved ones. It is also said to protect from fairies and evil spirits. There is a Christian tradition that tells how the Virgin Mary hid behind the bush on the flight out of Egypt and the flowers turned blue where her cloak touched them.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

The rowan is known as a tree of protection in Britain. It was often planted near houses and a branch of rowan could rescue a person from abduction by fairies. It was also woven into wreaths to protect livestock in Scotland. It gives its name to the letter 'luis' in the Ogham and Gaelic alphabets. A liquor from the berries used to be made in Scotland.

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Although a native of Southern Europe, rue has been an important cultural plant in Britain for many centuries. Rue was used to sprinkle holy water by early Christian missionaries and has a long tradition as a powerful protective plant. It is mentioned in Chaucer and Milton, and Shakespeare's Ophelia calls it 'herb of grace'. It was used to fumigate law courts until the 18th century and is still used as a flavouring in food and drinks.

Rush (Juncus spp )

Common in wet areas and in meadows it was formerly widely used for flooring, lights, clothing, and baskets. Rush baskets were exported to the Roman empire, and rushes appear in mythology (Cap O' Rushes, Rushen Coatie, King Arthur, Diarmid & Grainne) and in the church rush bearing ceremonies.

Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage-leaved Rock Rose (Cistus salvifolius)

Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia)

Sainfoin or 'holy hay' may be native to some of the chalk grasslands of south west England and it was widely grown as a fodder crop in Britain and the continent . The tradition is that when the baby Jesus was laid in the manger the hay turned into this beautiful pink flower and so was called 'holy hay'.

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius)

Sarsaparille (Smilax aspera)

Saxifrage (Saxifraga cespitosa)

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

As it closes its vivid red petals at the approach of bad weather it has many country names such as 'shepherd's barometer' or 'poor man's weather glass'. According to Pliny it promoted mirth, from which it derives its generic name from the Greek 'anagelao' 'to laugh'. Scarlet pimpernel was also known as 'Urith's blood' in Devon because of a tradition that a newly converted Christian girl of that name was slain for her beliefs and her blood formed the flower. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Scots Primrose (Primula scotica)

This beautiful small primrose only grows on the North Coast of Scotland and on Orkney. It is one of the UK's few endemic species.

Find out more about this plant

Sea Aster (Aster tripolium)

Sea Holly (Eringium maritimum)

Candied sea holly roots or eringoes were a delicacy in Tudor and Stuart Britain and later. Falstaff in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor calls for eringoes to fall from the sky. Sea Holly is the county flower of Liverpool.

Find out more about this plant

Sea weed (Zostera marina, etc.)

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)

Also known as 'all-heal', as its name suggests, selfheal was traditionally used in herbal remedies for a range of ailments including sore throats and stemming bleeding wounds. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Find out more about this plant

Service tree (Sorbus domestica)

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus)

Shaggy parasol mushroom ( Chlorophyllum species)

Shepherd's-purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Shining cinquefoil (Potentilla nitida)

Snowdon lily (Lloydia serotina)

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

This delicate herald of spring has only been recorded from the wild since the 18th century. It is thougth to have been introduced by monks and is often found on the sites of ancient monasteries. One of its names is 'Candlemas Bells' because it was often used to decorate alters of the Virgin Mary during Candlemas (2nd February). There are snowdrops festivals in many parts of Britain in February. Queen Victoria carried snowdrops as her wedding bouquet. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Find out more about this plant

Spanish broom (Spartium junceum)

Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)

The spindle tree is at its most distinctive and beautiful when sporting its brilliant red berries. The wood has been used for many purposes including the making of spindles, and it has also been used medicinally. It some traditions of the Ogham tree alphabet the spindle is used for the letter 'Or'.

Spotted rock-rose (Tuberaria guttata)

Spruce (Picea species)

Spruces (e.g. Norway & Sitka) are often grown as plantation trees in the UK, although Norway Spruce was native in Britain in previous warm periods of the last Ice Ages, and was cultivated in the 900's. Spruces are used for paper, turpentine and wood.Norway Spruce is commonly used as a Christmas tree.

Squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium)

St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Stonecrop (Sedum rosum)

Sundew (Drosera species)

The sundew is one of Britains carniverous plants. This beautiful little plant of wet places traps insects with the help of the sticky 'dew drops' around its leaves.

Find out more about this plant

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

It is thought that sycamore was first introduced into Britain in the 16th century but there is a possibility that it arrived much earlier. It is now a well established feature of the landscape, and some of our best known heritage trees, including the Tolpuddle Martyrs Tree, are sycamores. In Scotland sycamores were often 'Dool Trees', the trees used as gallows. Sycamore was thought to protect from fairies and can be found as decoration on Welsh baking tins. A wine has been made from its sap.

Tamarisk (Tamarix species)

Tansy (Tanacetum sp)

Teasel (wild) (Dipsacus fullonum)

The teasel with its striking flower and seed head is both beautiful and useful. The spikes of the seed heads have long been used to card wool and raise the nap of fabrics. The teasel was used on the arms granted to the Clothworkers Company in 1530. The seed heads also provide seeds for birds in winter. Photo copyright Beth Newman

Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus)

Thistles (Cirsium or Carduus)

There are many different thistle species in Britain and it is not certain which of them is the Scottish emblem, although spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) may fit the bill. Thistles are mentioned in Genesis in the Bible, and are often used in literature and art to denote struggle or difficulties.

Thrift (Armeria maritima)

A beauty of the sea cliffs and wild coastal areas, thrift or sea pink, was a favourite of gardens as long ago as the 16th century often used in formal knot gardens. It appeared as an emblem on the threepenny bit of George VI. Thrift is the county flower of Bute, the Isles of Scilly and Pembrokeshire/Sir Benfro. Photo copyright Sue Nottingham

Find out more about this plant

Thyme (Thymus sp)

Tulip species ()

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis)

A rare plant of the northern forests, the delicate plant was the only genus that Karl von Linnaeus (the father of modern botany) named after himself 'Linnaea'. It is threatened by changes in woodland management and by the isolation of the few remaining populations. It is the county flower of Inverness-shire.

Find out more about this plant

Vetches (Vicia sp)

Violet (Viola odorata)

The sweet violet has been beloved in many countries and times, it is the symbol of Athens and a golden violet was given as first prize in the Medieval Floral Games in Toulouse. It was the Empress Josephine's favourite flower and became the symbol of the followers of Napoleon. It is a favourite of poets from Shakespeare to the classical Persian poets.

Find out more about this plant

Violet (Common Dog or Wood) (Viola riviniana)

The common dog or wood violet is found all over the UK flowering from April to June. It is food for several species of fritillary butterflies. It is the county flower for Lincolnshire. Dog violets and badges were sold around Violet Day in Britain and Australia to commemorate the soldiers of the First World War, first celebrated in July 1915.

Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)

Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)

Water Lily (Nymphaea alba)

Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica)

White bryoni (Bryonia alba)

Wild arum (Arum maculatum)

Wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

Wild carrot (Daucus carota)

Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

The wild cherry has been used for its fruits and its wood since the prehistoric period. It is also valued for its blossoms and often planted in parks and along hedges.

Wild crab apple (Malus sylvestris)

Wild Pansy (Heartsease) (Viola tricolor)

The wild pansy or heartease is a favourite of poets and artists. Its most widely used name is related to 'thought' in Romance languages, and it has a plethora of names in English and many other languages. Shakespeare's Oberon uses its to make a love potion for Titania, Queen of the Fairies and it is often associated with love.

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Wild strawberries are known from very early archaeological sites in the UK and are still enjoyed and collected today. They are associated with both pagan goddesses, Frigga and Venus, and also the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. Wild strawberry is used in heraldry and a duke's coronet has eight strawberry leaves as a sign of rank. A bush of wild strawberries at Kelmscott Manor was the inspiration for one of William Morris's most famous designs, the Strawberry Thief. Photo copyright Andrew Gagg

Wild Thyme (Thymus species)

Wild thyme is well loved for its scent, its flavour and its tiny flowers. It was one of the nine sacred Anglo-Saxon herbs, and has long been used in love charms. It is also associated with fairies.

Willow (Salix species)

Willows are still used for a wide range of purposes including basketry, wood and fuel, and as the wood of cricket bats. Willows gained a reputation as a tree of sorrow from their appearance in the Bible, as the tree from which the Jews hung their harps when in captivity in Babylon (although some authorities believe that these may have been poplars). Willow also gives its name to the letter 'saille' in the Ogham and Gaelic alphabets. Willows appear often in art and literature including the Willow Pattern from Minton, William Morris's willow leaves, Desdemona's Song of the Willow in Othello, the Wind in the Willows.

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium )

Yarrow has long been an important plant for healing. Its scientific name, Achillea, comes from the legend that Achilles used it to cure his men's wounds. It is also a common ingredition of love charms and potions across Britain. It was supposedly used by the Druids to predict the weather and was used as a protection against witches, althought it was also one of plants thought to be used in witchcraft.

Yew (Taxus baccata)

The yew tree can live for thousands of years and many of Britain's heritage trees are yews, including the Fortingale yew. They are often found in church yards. The oldest known artefact in Britain is a 150,000 year old yew lance tip found in Clacton-on-sea. Medieveal long bows were made from yew and the bows of the Royal Company of Archers in Scotland are still made from yew wood. The berries are extremely poisonous and yew was used in the witches brew in Shakespeare's Macbeth. In the Harry Potter novels Voldemort's wand is made from yew wood. Yew is used to make the modern cancer drug Taxol.