Updated: May 10
As anyone who knows me or watches our social media would know this “roughty toughty” expedition caver delights in delicate wildflowers. I have loved flowers and adorned their intricate beauty since early childhood. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my Grans farm, tending to her Garden, foraging, and picking fruit and veg from her allotment.
There was always something so soothing about contemplating the detail and form of flowers, tending to them, watching them grow, and then partaking in the enriching ritual of collecting, cleaning, and preparing the food from their plants before breaking bread with loved ones. Those images are still so salient in my mind, their substance enveloped through my being - the aga stoked, me stood looking out the window pulling strawberries, just picked, from their leaves, listening to the birds sing, the cows gently mooing, as we prepare with a gentle focus jam & tarts. The act of carefully creating something from scratch, of wandering around the fields searching for flowers, trees, and plants has instilled in me my deepest sense of peace and purpose.
In my older years, my curiosity strayed with achievements and the rush of running through the mountains in preparation for the next expedition or ultra, until I got injured, but every hardship has acted as a reminder. In 2018 I was injured and had just bought Yorkshire Dales Guides which temporarily grinded my personal ambitions to a halt but as I ambled through the lanes and over the mountains I began to notice, once again, the micro paradise my conscious mind had almost forgotten - the wonderful world of wildflowers.
I want to share the layers of my fascination with you, to help you ‘get your eye in’ for a world that perhaps you’d never had the time to notice before but no more meaningful time than now to discover. The world at large is suffering but despite fears for our loved ones and our business we have still been able to experience true joy, and awe, intrigue, and so very importantly for us in the absence of caving, a sense of adventure and exploration finding the more obscure and rare species of wildflower. We have missed our freedoms but been gratefully distracted by the ever-changing natural world that inhabits our local trots. At this glorious time of year, our paths are rarely the same twice.
Each time new flowers are blossoming, others growing, some dying back to make way for others. It has been a symphony of colours, sounds, and form made all the more diverse by the deepening of our awareness. Many years, a degree, masters, and experiences later I understand both academically and practically the incredible benefit of practices like exploring for wildflowers, about how noticing and slowing down, being present, and how that awe can literally re-wire your brain for a happier and calmer life. I understand with great detail its positive and strengthening effects on one’s body physically but also to the extent to which it boosts one’s immune system. Something we so desperately need now. So……
This summer we are going to share with you, an easy to understand intro to botany, so you too can start exploring the wildflowers near you. We will cover the basic components of a flower, what flowers to look out for when, what obvious features help you recognise certain families of wildflowers, their medicinal history and some quirky tips & tales, and all completely for free. No daunting Latin names or highfalutin language we promise. Just flowers and their beauty, for you and the whole family. Home-schooling with the fun 😊
We will be sharing regular posts, piccies, videos and blogs on our website: https://www.yorkshiredalesguides.co.uk/blog and on our social media sites https://www.facebook.com/YorkshireDalesGuides/ https://www.instagram.com/yorkshiredalesguides/
so make sure to favourite and like our pages.
To start you off here are some pics and pointers about how to identify and find some of my favourite flowers that are blossoming in May. Keep checking back in as we will continue to add flowers and some botany basics in the days and weeks to come.
The Primula Family
The native ‘English’ Primrose
The word Primrose is derived from the latin words prima rosa meaning first rose or in other words the first rose of Spring. This is an affectionate term based on roses being beloved flowers as opposed to the primrose literally being of the rose family, which they aren’t.
Flowers: Feb – May
Flower: They have pretty singular pale-yellow flowers with a darker orange centre, and each flower has 5 slightly notched petals that are edible.
Leaf: The leaves form a circle at the bottom (a basal rosette) of the plant that are almost tongue-like, with a rough crinkly surface that are hairy on the underneath. They remind me of Calo Nero cabbage leaves but lighter green.
Height: 1 – 25cm
Where you’ll find it aka its habitat: It loves undisturbed ground like railway embankments, woodland, grassland, gardens, riverbanks you name it. It is very loved and thankfully a very common find.
Lookalikes: It can cross with cowslip to form the hybrid – false oxlip, which has multiple flower heads to one stem, like below.
For more info:
Bird's eye primrose – the Yorkshire Primrose
The birds-eye primrose is an arctic-alpine flower and has to be one of my favourite little gems. They are a nationally rare and endangered flower and hence can only be found at a specific altitude in a few pockets of Yorkshire and Cumbria so comparatively won’t find as much about this one on the internet or general wildflower compilations. Thanks to the invaluable work of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve it is thriving in a few pockets of the Yorkshire 3 peaks. The flowers like very particular conditions and ever-changing climate and intensifying farming methods make it very difficult for flowers like this to survive. This is where consultant botanists and employees of Natural England and National parks come in. On Ingleborough, they have particular breeding regimes where for example cattle are brought in to graze the lime-rich pastures in order to naturally keep the grasses at a length suitable for Yorkshire primroses to thrive and you can see from the pictures how lucky we are to enjoy their successful work.
Flowers: May to July
Flower: the flowers form a cluster at the top of a leafless stem, forming an umbrella of small sub stalks/stems called an umbel. The umbel can have anything from 5 – 10 flowers on it, each consisting of 5 slightly notched barbie pink petals with the characteristic ‘birds eye’ yellow ring in the middle.
Leaf: the basal rosette (circle of leaves at the bottom) consists of spoons like leaves that are almost greeny-grey due to the fine hairs they have.
Habitat: they like wet, calcium/lime-rich soils with short grass (this is where the munching cows come in).
Lookalikes: when looking just at the flower head they can be confused with the common red campion but these flowers do not have the telltale yellow bird’s eye in the middle and are much bigger and darker in colour.