Common wild flowers to find in the Dorset countryside

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are abundant during the summer months in woodlands, field margins and hedgerows.
Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are abundant during the summer months in woodlands, field margins and hedgerows. | Source

Wild flowers commonly found in Dorset

The Dorset countryside is typified by rolling hills, and a beautiful random patchwork appearance produced by small agricultural fields delineated by thick hedgerows.The diverse countryside of Dorset provides a huge range of great habitats including woodlands, copses, coastal areas ranging from rocky beaches to sand dunes, fields, meadows and heathlands, all of which give rise to a vast array of beautiful wild flowers.

It is one of my favourite things to take a walk through the countryside with my camera and a wild flower book in my pocket to see what new flowers I can find. The photographs shown here are my own snapshots taken in and around west Dorset on some of my countryside ramblings.

Flowering plants that grow on the grassy banks along roadsides are many and varied, and easy to find and identify. This article describes and illustrates some of the commonest flowers that can be found throughout the year in and around the Dorset countryside, described by their common names with latin names in brackets for reference.

Snowdrops growing alongside a country lane in early spring
Snowdrops growing alongside a country lane in early spring | Source
Primroses (centre bottom), dandelions (top left) and greater stitchwort (right) in a grassy bank
Primroses (centre bottom), dandelions (top left) and greater stitchwort (right) in a grassy bank | Source

Early spring, snowdrops and primroses

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) pop up from the ground from late January into March along roadside banks and in the woods. They grow from a small bulb, have pretty white bell-shaped flowers with slender glossy green leaves. They are often said to be the first sign that spring is on its way,

Primroses (Primula vulgaris) are another herald of spring, with their pretty pale yellow, five-petalled flowers, that can be seen flowering from March to May along roadside verges and in deciduous woodlands.

Bluebell woods in Dorset
Bluebell woods in Dorset | Source
An English bluebell, differentiated from its Spanish cousin by its drooping habit
An English bluebell, differentiated from its Spanish cousin by its drooping habit | Source

Bluebells

Native English bluebells (Endymion non-scriptus) are primarily woodland flowers that provide a beautiful splash of blue. They can be found in huge swathes throughout Dorset woodland, on open downs and along the roadside. A large patch of bluebells gives off a lovely delicate scent, similar to that of hyacinths. English bluebells have a limited range, and differ slightly from the cultivated variety or Spanish bluebells. The English variety are slightly smaller, and have a drooping habit as all the "bells" grow more or less along one side of the stem, rather than all around it as in the Spanish variety. There is some concern that cultivated bluebells are hybridising with English bluebells in the wild.

Foxgloves

Wild foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are a tall and striking perennial, with their deep pink spikes of large tubular flowers (see top picture). They can be seen from June to September, and grow almost anywhere from woodlands to field margins and hedgerows. Foxgloves also grow well in gardens and are a wonderful flower for bees and nectar feeding insects.

Wild garlic

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) has broad strongly garlic-scented leaves and typical round allium-type white flowers. It is a very pretty plant that flowers in May and is often seen in woody glades and along shady roadside banks. The leaves are edible and can be used in place of garlic in many recipes, although the flavour is a little milder than that of cultivated garlic.

Wild garlic (white flowers) growing amongst bluebells on a densely populated bank. You can smell the garlic from quite a way away, and the leaves of this plant are edible.
Wild garlic (white flowers) growing amongst bluebells on a densely populated bank. You can smell the garlic from quite a way away, and the leaves of this plant are edible. | Source

Red campion

Red campion (Silene dioica) is often seen growing along roadside banks during spring and early summer, with its lovely deep pink five-petalled flowers standing out against a lush green backdrop.


Red campion (pink flowers in foreground) growing amonst harts-tongue ferns along a roadside
Red campion (pink flowers in foreground) growing amonst harts-tongue ferns along a roadside | Source

Cow parsley

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is one of the most commonly seen flowers along roadsides, it towers above all the others with its large umbelliferous white sprays of flowers from May to June.

Wild honeysuckle flowers growing in a hedgerow
Wild honeysuckle flowers growing in a hedgerow | Source

Climbing plants

Climbing plants that can be seen growing amongst the hedgerow include wild honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), with its sweet scented and very pretty yellow flowers; wild clematis (Clematis vitalba ), which is recognisable by its hairy seed heads that give it the common-name of "old man's beard", and the dog-rose (Rosa canina), a classic pink single-petalled climbing rose.

The common spotted orchid
The common spotted orchid | Source

Orchids

It is always an exciting moment to find a rare orchid, those found in Dorset include the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), the spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). It took me a while to find any orchids to photograph, but eventually I managed to find these lovely flowers on a high chalky Dorset hillside, amongst a host of other beautiful meadow flowers. Orchids have very specialised needs, so you need to know where and when to look for them. The common spotted and pyramidal orchids pictured flower between June and August.


Pyramidal orchids on a grassy hillside
Pyramidal orchids on a grassy hillside | Source

Wild flower reference book

Reference:

Fitter, R., Fitter, A. and Blamey, M. (1980) The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins, London.

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Comments 13 comments

mactavers profile image

mactavers 5 years ago

Thank you for the textual and visual treat of sharing the beauty of your area. Your photos show such lush green growth, but even here in the high desert of Arizona where temperatures are usually around 100 degrees this time of year, we enjoy native plants that have red, yellow and purple flowers. Flowers are amazing


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi Imogen :)

I enjoyed that very much :)

I have loved wild flowers since I was a very young child and I particularly remember the ones I saw on holiday in Devon.

I was given a wild flower book for my 7th or 8th birthday and, ever since, I have kept one with me during holidays.

This hub took me right back :)


davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

IF: One of my favorite pastimes is to wonder about and discover the native plants. This is a great hub because it brings you right to plants we would not otherwise encounter!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

Your descriptions of the wildflowers in Dorset make me want to visit! I love the photograph of the bluebells along the path - it just reminds me of a lovely springtime walk in the woods! I'm so glad that Davenmidtown introduced us to you through his hub!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I love Dorset and your hub has reminded me I need to visit there again soon!

Your pictures and descriptions of the flowers are just lovely, thank you.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Nothing beats walking through an English woodland when its covered in its carpet of Bluebells. Great article.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England Author

Updated with a couple of new pictures, May 2012


Olde Cashmere profile image

Olde Cashmere 4 years ago from Michigan, United States

Thank you for sharing this enjoyable hub, beautiful photos as well. Voted up, interesting, and beautiful :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Walking through the country is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking at all the wildflowers, especially in spring. This was a lovely walk, your pictures are beautiful! Voted up and beautiful! :)


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

thanks sgbrown. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I love walking around my local countryside to see and photograph the wild flowers, and am glad to share my experience with those who appreciate it :)


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

Hub updated in July 2013 to include a couple of new pictures.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

This hub gets a little longer every time I find a new wild flower to photograph - I couldn't resist adding the orchids that I found recently!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I just love wild flowers, and you have some pretty ones...ours are so different here. The world is a lovely place!

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