A study of late summer wild flowers in chalk grassland.

For tonight’s #wildflowerhour (which if you didn’t know is a chance for wild flower lovers to come together and share what they’ve found and talk about flowers on Twitter, every Sunday at 8pm), F&F has a lovely chalk grassland meadow to enjoy.

chalk grassland meadow

This is the same meadow that we visited in the spring to meet millions of cowslips.


Now it is full of late summer wild flowers. The guide claims that it has bee orchids, and last year I spotted pyramidal orchids blooming here too, but it’s too late for them now.

The common flowers here are:

close scabious

Small scabious (Scabiosa columbaria): Very common indeed at this site, and a staple plant of the chalk grassland habitat.

scabious many scabious flower

It took a while to distinguish this from another scabious growing at the site, which was sufficiently different for me to twig that we had two species on our hands. But how to tell which was which?

This plant is Scabiosa columbaria, the small scabious, because it has five-lobed florets (the outer petals). The photo below shows this off best:

scabious close

But this is Knautia arvensis, the field scabious:

knautia arvensis

These flowers have four-lobed florets. The photo below will help you count: look at the floret at the top and count its lobes.

knautia arvensis

The leaves are also quite different: indeed, it was the difference in foliage that first alerted me to the possibility that this meadow may contain different scabious flowers. The below leaves are from Knautia arvensis:

scabious foliage

And these are the finer leaves of Scabiosa columbaria:

scabious leaves

Got it? This handy guide on the Wild Flower Finder website explained it for me.

meadow far

Like many meadows these days, this one does have a bit of ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) blooming:

meadow far

And there is much Lesser Knapweed (Centaurea nemoralis), which has a slightly swollen stem towards the flowerhead and narrow leaves.


This plant can be on a spectrum with Centaurea nigra, and yet again the Wild Flower Finder website explains the subtle differences that mark out the ends of the spectrum.

wild carrot

Wild carrot (Daucus carota) is a pretty plant, with a mysterious pink/red flower in the centre. Not every wild carrot has this feature, and some, like the ones we spotted in Herm, have pink flowers across the umbel. But this little red dot isn’t found on any umbellifer other than a carrot.

wild carrot

wild carrot head

The seed heads curve inwards like one of those beautiful birds nests you see hanging from trees in African savannah.

Less prolific, but still threaded throughout the meadow is agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria).

agrimony meadow


And along the edges of the pathways, particularly where the grass is a little longer and the trees cast a little more shade, Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus):

Odontites vernus

A low-growing perennial threaded through the grass in some patches is Common Restharrow (Ononis repens).


And a flower that is growing well on the slopes, even more so on mown ground a little further along, is the dainty and lovely harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).


This has a number of subspecies, but there was no variation between the flowers we spotted in this meadow.

harebell close harebell flowers

Do tweet your own wildflower finds, either now while #wildflowerhour is taking place, or at any time so that we can add them to the weekly hall of fame.

Wild Flower Hour takes place every Sunday at 8pm on twitter and Instagram. Just add #wildflowerhour to your tweets of photos of flowers you’ve found at any time during the week or weekend, and do join the conversation at 8pm on Sunday so that wild flower enthusiasts can find one another and learn more about our amazing native flora.

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  1. » Identifying wildflowers

    […] The Wild Flower Finder, which taught me the difference between field scabious and small scabious last week, is not the best-looking site, and the owner seems worried about the bandwidth being exhausted. But […]


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