Celebrate Dorset Wildflower Week

PUBLISHED: 12:01 16 May 2019

Bee orchid

Bee orchid


Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Catherine Bolado and wildflower expert and DWT trustee Jim White reveal some lesser known wildflowers to look for

At this time of year keen-eyed walkers may well spot species like bee orchids or the early purple orchids in the Dorset countryside. But what of those lesser known wildflowers species that are not so flamboyant? Dorset Wildflower Week (25 May - 2 June) is the ideal opportunity for you to explore your local coast and countryside and spot some of these wild treasures.

Wildflowers not only add colour to the landscape, they are also vital for pollinators such as beetles, flies, hoverflies, butterflies and moths which feed on their nectar and pollen, they also provide food plants for many of their offspring too.

Ling, Bell and Cross-leaved Heathers

There are three frequently found types of heather in Dorset: common (or ling); cross-leaved, and bell. The first to flower in June is bell heather. It likes drier heathland and has dark purple-pink, bell-shaped flowers which form clusters up the stem. Cross-leaved heather, which prefers boggier, wetter conditions, has paler pink bell-shaped flowers in a cluster at the top of the stem. Common heather, which can grow on dry or wet heathland, is the last to flower in August and September. It carries delicate pink flowers loosely arranged up the stem.

Find at these DWT nature reserves: Upton Heath, Higher Hyde and Tadnoll.

Ling heatherLing heather

False oxlip

Many of us will be familiar with primroses and cowslips. From early to late spring these add a joyful splash of pale yellow to hedgerow bank, wood and field. However less well known is the false oxslip. This is a hybrid that appears where primroses and cowslips are flowering in close proximity. Although not rare, they are much less common than the parent plants. All have tubular flowers so are ideal for pollinators with a longer proboscis (nose), like bee flies.

Find at these DWT nature reserves: Townsend in Swanage, Fontmell Down near Shaftesbury and Kingcombe Meadows in West Dorset.

False oxlip - a hybrid created by a cowslip and a primroseFalse oxlip - a hybrid created by a cowslip and a primrose

Small and Field Scabious

The small scabious, which is only a few inches tall, is actually a mass of individual flowers grouped into a single flowerhead which makes it particularly attractive to pollinators as there are more flowers per patch. The field scabious, by comparison, is much taller and is usually found amongst taller grasses on roadsides. The nectar rich scabious flowers, which bloom from June to August, appeal to pollinators like hoverflies, honey bees and solitary bees.

Find at these DWT nature reserves: Scabious like chalky sites such as Fontmell Down

Small scabiousSmall scabious

Golden Saxifrage

Found in damp woodland often near streams, this low-growing plant with shiny, thickish leaves is easy to miss. It is only conspicuous in April and May when its acid-golden flowers appear. It is an important food source for pollinators like small woodland flies that breed in the damp mud at the side of streams and woodland flushes.

Find at these DWT nature reserves: Kilwood, Kingcombe Meadows and Brackett's Coppice.

Golden saxifrageGolden saxifrage

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