Cornwall is home to an intriguing and beautiful range of wildflowers. On a short walk along the South West Coastal Path between April and October, you are likely to see hundreds of them. With such a vast variety to discover, it can be fun to try and learn their names and qualities. In this blog, we’ve picked out our favourites, so that you can try and spot them on your next trip to the coast.
Credit: Neil Hall
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Found in woodland, grasslands and grass verges, primrose can flower as early as December in milder years. They’re a common feature in Cornish hedgerows, and their tongue-like petals come in a range of colours from pale cream to bright yellow. Their common names derives from the Latin 'prima rosa', meaning 'first rose' because they’re often the first flower to bloom in the spring.
Credit: Nourish by WebMD
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Once abundant, Chamomile is now found more scarcely in the wild. When crushed, it releases an apple-like scent which made it popular in the Elizabethan era. Found between June and August, and sometimes mistaken for daisies, they are recognisable by their yellow central disc and white ray floret petals.
Credit: Timo C Dinger
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)
Easily identified by their strong garlic smell, long green leaves and white, star-like flowers, wild garlic emerges in woodland areas between April and May. Early flowering allows it to absorb as much light as possible from the woodland floor, before the trees overhead become dense with greenery. It’s popular with pollinating insects, including hoverflies, butterflies and longhorn beetles as well as foragers looking to make pestos and soups.
Credit: Aleksey Milov
Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Hogweed is a native plant and member of the carrot family. Found in hedgerows, roadside verges, waste grounds and rough grasslands, it is a hardy plant and is attractive to a range of insects. Most likely to flower between May and August, it displays umbrella-like clusters of cream petals with pink around the edge.
Credit: Diana Parkhouse
Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
Between April and May, Cornish woodlands become an explosion of colour with millions of flowering bluebells. Like garlic, they flower early to make the most of the light before tree canopies grow over. Their purple colour makes them attractive to pollinating insects and their long, narrow, drooping leaf fronds make them easily recognisable.
Credit: S N Pattenden
Thrift (Armeria maritima)
Found between April and October, Thrift – otherwise known as ‘Cliff Clover’ – is most at home in coastal areas. Its round, pink, clover-like flowers can be found perched upon long green stems on cliffs, sand dunes and marshes. They’re also an excellent garden plant in well-drained, sandy soil.
Credit: Jacek Kuzemczak
Common gorse (Ulex europaeus)
Common gorse is a large shrub and a member of the pea family. It’s widely distributed and is known to flourish in ‘wild’ places including Cornwall’s moors and clifftops. Characterised by needle-like leaves and coconut-perfumed, yellow flowers it blossoms between spring and summer. Because it is evergreen, it can be spotted around the county all year round.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
Honeysuckle is a climbing plant, with a heady scent which fills the air during the summer. Home to a wide range of insects, it also provides nest sites for birds and feeding grounds for small mammals. Its trumpet-shaped flowers appear between June and August and its red berries arrive in clusters during the autumn.
To learn more about wildflowers and wildlife native to Cornwall, Cornwall Wildlife Trust has an amazing repository of information.