1. Lesser celandine
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.
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
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.
Underground rhizomes produce conical pink inflorescences that erupt through riverbank soil before the leaves expand. It has separate male and female plants.
5. Barren strawberry
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.
6. Butcher’s broom
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.
7. Spurge Laurel
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.
8. Yellow star of Bethlehem
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.
9. Sweet violet
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.
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 9 early bloomers, picked by botanist Phil Gates.
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