Wildflowers to spot in February

The first wildflowers lift our spirits with their promise of spring. They also provide vital sources of nectar and pollen for the emerging bees and butterflies, tempted out by late winter sun – here's nine early bloomers

8th February 2018
Yellow star of Bethlehem

1. Lesser celandine

Lesser celandine
Also known as pilewort ©Getty

Ficaria verna

Grows from a tuber that responds quickly to the first hint of spring. The starry yellow flowers are a cheerful sight in hedgebanks and carpet woodland edges. 

2. Alexanders

Smyrnium olusatrum
Common fly feeding on Alexanders ©Getty

Smyrnium olusatrum 

Its green umbels have a musty smell that attracts fly pollinators. A former herb, it fell from favour after celery was introduced. It’s now naturalised near the coast.

3. Wood sorrell

Wood sorrel
The leaves of wood sorrel are edible ©Getty

Oxalis acetosella

Its nodding flowers may be marked with pink veins and yellow spots at their base. Wood sorrel often grows over decaying branches on the woodland floor. 

4. Butterbur

Butterbur
Butterbur has unscented white-pink flowers ©Getty

Petasites hybridus

Underground rhizomes produce conical pink inflorescences that erupt through riverbank soil before the leaves expand. It has separate male and female plants.

5. Butcher’s broom 

Butcher's Broom
Butcher's broom is an evergreen shrub ©Getty

Ruscus aculeatus  

This evergreen of dry woodlands used to be bound to make brooms. Star-shaped flowers are carried in leaf-like structures that are really flattened stem branches.

6. Yellow star of Bethlehem 

Yellow star of bethlehem
The yellow star of Bethlehem is a member of the family Liliaceae ©Getty

Gagea lutea

Green-backed petals open to reveal umbels of yellow blooms that are easily overlooked among the lesser celandines. It is locally common on limestone soils.

7. Sweet violet

Sweet violet
Sweet violet is also commonly known as wood violet ©Getty

Viola odorata

The only native violet that’s fragrant, this is always the first to flower. Creeping stolons root at their tip, so old plants form large patches in hedgebanks. 

8. Barren strawberry

Barren strawberry
Look for hairy, blue-green leaves ©Ceridwen, Geograph

Potentilla sterilis 

Similar to wild strawberry, this blooms earlier and its petals don’t touch one another. Fruits are dry and inedible. It is very common on woodland edges.

9. Spurge Laurel

Spurge Laurel
Spurge Laurel in flower ©Patrick Roper, Geograph

Daphne laureola

Clusters of scented green flowers on this evergreen shrub attract the first bees and brimstone butterflies. Find it in calcareous soils, in hedge banks and beech woods.

Learn more with our guide to Britain's top native wildflowers.

 

Main image ©Getty

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