A look at the wild flora of northern England with the aid of photographs and explanatory text.

Beginning with the marginal plants that are encountered along our water ways, marshes, ditches and other boggy situations.



The yellow flag iris

photograph by Dal

Description of the yellow flag

This marginal plant is a common site at the edge of ponds,lakes and other water bodies. It grows on a range of soils. It is also commonly grown around the margins of garden ponds being stately and producing large yellow flowers. If one looks close at the base of the leaves it will be noticed that the leaves grow one in side another forming a chevron patterning. The leaves are sword shaped with a pointed tip. They are a bright grey-green colour. The midrib of each leaf is slightly raised.

The plant may attain the height of 1 to1.5m.

They begin to flower during June until August.

The flowers 7-10cm wide. The flowers of the yellow flag iris are not easily confused with any other species being bright yellow and impressive. Each are composed of three lower petals with light brown markings, they are supported by a greenish leaf-like spathe. There are three erect standard petals which are smaller, narrower than the lower ones and unmarked.

The flowers are succeeded by the cigar shaped fruit capsules that droop from the stems. They are green at first but later becomes brownish black. It is at this stage that they split three ways to reveal the orange brown seeds. These are irregular shaped and hard coated.

BROOK LIME. Veronica beccabunga

Photographs by Dal


When not in flower this plant with its succulent stems looks similar to water cress. Where the leaves joing the stem the stem is often fushed with red. The leaves are arranged opposite to each other and are oval to elliptical in form with wavy margins. They are toothed and of a deep green colouring. Hairless.

It is a creeping perennial which can be invasive as the top photograph demonstrates. The flowers are 5-8mm wide, arise on long stalks and appear in loose clusters. The flowers are blue with a small white "eye" ringed by red .

The plant grows  from  20-60cm tall and flowers from May until September.

It may be encountered in the margins of ponds, ditches ,rivers and parts of meadows and marshes that are permanently wet.


Lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula

This is a very poisonous plant, as all buttercups are, yet as a plant to admire for its beauty it is impressive in ponds and ditches throughout Britain and Ireland. Flammula the species name means " little flame" and alludes to the plants burning taste.

Lesser spearwort

Photograph by Dal

Lesser spearwort.

The leaves of the lesser spearwort are spear-shaped {hence the common name} the lower ones are stalked, the upper one stalk-less. The leaves arise from creeping stems which tend to root at intervals.The height of the plant varies from 5-30cm. The buttercup like flowers are stalked, the stalks are slightly furrowed. The fruiting head is globular as the picture above demonstrates. Again this typical of the buttercup family. They may be found in flower  from May until September.

The greater spearwort Ranunculus lingua is a much taller plant up to 120cm with larger flowers, but this is a much rarer plant and a lot more localized in distribution. 

Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata

This plant, in my opinion, is one of the finest plants to be found in marshes, bogs and fens. The three large leaflets that compose the leaf are impressive and unmistakable in appearance.

Bog bean foliage

photograph by Dal

bog bean

The creeping under water stems enables the plant to colonize large areas where it is established.The upright stems appear above the water. The base of the leaves form a sheath around the stem. The flowers that appear from May to July are pink in bud but white when they are open.They are arranged on a feathery spike { white petals are fringed with hairs} at the top of flowering stems.

The bog bean is variable in height from 10-150cm. 

Bogbean courtesy of Aneli Salo  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.