Wild Flowers

Here you’ll find some information about the wild flowers I’ve seen on my ramblings along with some photos.  Flowers aren’t always so easy to identify correctly, so if you see anything you think is not right please let me know and I’ll investigate and update.

General information:

  • The ‘doctrine of signatures’ relates to the historical belief that plants bore, like a medicine label, dominant characteristics indicating their powers – e.g. see ‘orchids’ below.


  • Found throughout medieval Europe

Origin of name:

  • from the Old French name ‘Blanc ursina” meaning ‘white bear’
  • linked with bears because its bracts tear the flesh.

In Art and Literature:

  • Named by Alexander Neckam, a great medieval encylopaedist
  • By the 15th Century Acanthus had superseded vines as the dominant leaf pattern decorating the margins of illuminated manuscripts.

Doctrine of Signatures:

  • used for sharp pains like gout and burns.
Acanthus - Bear's Breeches
Acanthus – Bear’s Breeches St Michael’s Mount – 17.6.15
Bracts of the Acanthus - look at those spines!
Bracts of the Acanthus – look at those spines! St Michael’s Mount – 17.6.15

Bramble or Blackberry  (Rubus fruticosus)

  • Free food!
  • 2000 varieties!
  • Sprawling and prickly.
  • Flowers May to September, either white or pink flowers 2.5 – 4 cm across.
  • Grow in woods, hedges and scrub all over England and Wales –  less common in Scotland


  • Blackberries should not be eaten after Michaelmas (September 29) because the Devil then spits on them.

This advice is sound as the fruits become mushy and insipid about this time, but the naughty fellow who spits on them is not the Devil but the flesh-fly, which dribbles saliva on the berries and is then able to suck up the juice.


  • Shield bug (one of the few insects that takes care of its young). Late in July this bug has 30-40 young which she herds under a blackberry leaf at the first sign of danger – staying bravely on top of the leaf herself as a decoy.
  • Larvae of the moth Nepticula aurella, which leaves white winding tunnels on the leaves where the larva emerge from the egg and eat their way to the surface (leaf mining).

Seen: 13.6.2015

Place: Coast path near Maenporth Beach, Falmouth

Bramble - South West Coast Path near Maenporth Beach - 13th June 2015
Bramble – South West Coast Path near Maenporth Beach – 13th June 2015

English Stonecrop   (Sedum anglicum)

  • Family – Stonecrop
  • Native plant.
  • Upper leaves flushed with crimson
  • White flowers.
  • Commonest white stonecrop.
  • Found mostly in West of Britain on rocks, dunes and in shingle.

    English Stonecrop - Kenidjack Valley, 15.6.15
    English Stonecrop – Kenidjack Valley, 15.6.15

Foxgloves  (Digitalis purpurea)     also called Fairy Bells

  • Upright and hairy
  • 20 – 80 purple flowers hanging from a single stem
  • Flowers June to August
  • Common throughout Britain in woods, heaths, banks and rocks.

Origin of name

  • Possibly a corruption in both spelling and pronunciation of old words.
  • ‘Glove’ may be from the Anglo-Saxon ‘gliew’ – a musical instrument with many small bells
  • ‘Fox’ may be a corruption of ‘folk’s’ meaning the little folk or fairies.
  • In some regions – Somerset and Ireland – the plant is called ‘fairy bells’.

Medicinal uses

  • Poisonous
  • Yields the drug digitalis – used in the treatment of heart conditions as discovered in 1785 by William Withering – a clinical investigator – although how the drug acts by stimulation of the heart was not understood at the time.
    Foxglove - Botallack Head  - 15.6.15
    Foxglove – Botallack Head – 15.6.15

    Foxgloves and red campion - Botallack Head - 15.6.15
    Foxgloves and red campion – Botallack Head – 15.6.15

Heath Fragant-Orchid  (Gymnadenia conopsea)   also known as ‘Fragrant Orchid’

(see also Orchids below)

  • Family – Orchids
  • Grows commonly in Britain but numbers fluctuate due to the periodic failure of seedlings to establish.
  • Found on dry grassland and rocky slopes.
  • Flowers May – August
  • Smells of carnations or cloves
  • Attractive to moths and some butterflies.
  • Has underground tubers which are infected with a fungus which helps it to obtain mineral salts.

    Heath Fragrent-Orchid - Trenow Cove - 17.6.15
    Heath Fragrent-Orchid – Trenow Cove – 17.6.15

Himalayan Balsam   (Impatiens glandulifera)

  • Family – Impatiens
  • Pink/purple flowers
  • Hollow reddish stems
  • Has ‘explosive’ seed pods that distribute up to 800 seeds at one time.
  • Damaging to river banks


Navelwort  (Umbilicus rupestris)   also known as Wall Pennywort

  • Family – Stonecrop
  • Fleshy perennial.
  • Shiny circular leaves with a navel-like centre
  • Tubular, bell shaped flowers, whitish green, clustered in long spike.
  • Grows to 40cm high.
  • Grows on rocks and walls.
  • Seen in West and South West Endgland, Wales, South West Scotland, Ireland.
  • Flowers June – August.

Origin of name

  • Common and scientific names all refer to shape of leaves.
  • Leaves have a navel-like centre.
Navelwort - Kenidjack Valley - 15.6.15
Navelwort – Kenidjack Valley – 15.6.15

Orchids  (Orchis mascula)

Origin of Name

  • In order to survive dry Mediterranean summers and cold Northern winters, European orchids evolved two tubers for storing starch earning them the Greek name ‘orchis’ meaning ‘testicle’ and an undeserved reputation as an aphrodisiac.


  • By the doctrine of signatures having tubers resembling testicles indicates the orchids usefulness in promoting fertility.

In Art and Literature

  • The Belluno Herbal – a Latin text with illustrations showing complete plants with roots and seed cases as well as flowers, including orchids.
  • Used in Bourdichon’s illustrations for Anne of Brittany’s manuscript.

Red Campion  (Silene dioica)

  • Family – pinks
  • Bright red/pink flowers
  • Petals deeply divided with an inner ring of white flaps
  • Flowers April – September
  • Scentless
  • Common in most areas of Britain on rich soils at the edge of woods or in hedgerows, can grow on cliffs and mountain scree.
  • Often hybridises with white campion – bearing pink flowers.

Origin of name

  • Named after Silenus, the drunken, merry god of the woodlands in Greek mythology.
  • ‘doica’ means ‘two houses’ and refers to the fact the each plant has flowers of one sex only – so two plants are needed to make a seed.
Red Campion seen 13th June 2015 near Maenporth Beach
Red Campion seen 13th June 2015 near Maenporth Beach
Red Campion – seen 13th june 2015 near Maenporth Beach


Sea Pinks   (Armeria maritima)    also known as Thrift

  • Family – Sea-lavender
  • Grows to 40cm tall
  • Flowers – rose-pink, grouped in dense heads
  • Tall, leafless, woody stems and long roots which reach down to a constant water level
  • Flowers June – August
  • Habitat – coast and salt marshes, also on mountains in Scotland.
  • Found throughout Europe.

Origin of Name

  • Thrift – thrives or remains green throughout the year.
    Sea Pinks - Gunwalloe Cliffs - 29.5.2015
    Sea Pinks – Gunwalloe Cliffs – 29.5.2015


Wild Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)      also called Woodbine

  • Climbing, trailing plant with reddish-purple stems.
  • Flowers yellow, orange or purplish and white inside.
  • Flowers in June
  • Common in woods, hedgerows and thickets.
  • Scented


  • Honeysuckle has romantic associations:

If brought into the house a wedding will follow

If its flowers are placed in a girl’s bedroom she will dream of love

Medicinal Uses

  • Flowers have been used in potions for headache, lung disease and asthma.
Honeysuckle - seen 13th June 2015 near Maenporth Beach
Honeysuckle – seen 13th June 2015 near Maenporth Beach

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