Monthly column: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

On the hunt for flowers in bloom in winter is a great way for the family to enjoy some fresh air. Photo by Matthew Roberts.

This month Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Rachel Shaw writes about how to identify winter’s wildflowers.

Typically a sign of spring and summer, we don’t tend to think about wildflowers in the winter.

Red dead-nettle flower, also known as Lamium Purpureum. Photo provided by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

But if you look carefully there are still some to be seen. You don’t even need to be in the countryside.

Around the streets of the town where I work, the best places to look are what might be considered scruffy areas where vegetation has been left to grow and where plants are growing out of cracks in walls and between the paving.

The plants themselves are often considered as weeds, though the term weed doesn’t have a precise meaning.

What all of these plants are is adaptable; able to take advantage of hostile conditions and keep flowering and setting seed for as long as possible.

Pineapple Weed. Photo provided by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

Look closely and you’ll discover something unusual or remarkable.

The pineapple scent of the aptly named pineapple weed, the intricate pattern of a daisy, the heart-shaped seed pods of shepherd’s purse or the extraordinary structure of the red dead-nettle flower – on a plant that pretends to look like a nettle to avoid getting stung but has no sting.

It might also surprise you that you’re not alone looking for flowers blooming in winter.

There’s a community of amateur botanists that share their love of wildflowers online every Sunday evening. From 8pm to 9pm on a Sunday is #WildflowerHour when people share the photos of flowers they’ve seen during the past week.

Over the winter, there’s a special challenge called the #Winter10. The challenge is to find ten different wild flowers in bloom each week.

Once you’ve found them and worked out what they are, you can post them for everyone to see in the Wildflower Hour facebook group or on twitter using the hashtag.

If you’re not sure of the identification of flowers, the online community of botanists will help. Find out more at www.wildflowerhour.co.uk

Every New Year, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) encourages flower enthusiasts to pick one day between 30 December and 2 January, go for a walk and record all the wild plants that are in bloom.

During the 2016 New Year Plant Hunt, a staggering 653 species were recorded in bloom.

Get involved at: https://nyph.bsbi.org/ or download the New Year Plant Hunt app, available for iPhone and Android.

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