Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

ID Parade

Early Flowering Plants 

Could you look out for early flowering plants for us? Trees are coming into leaf sooner, and some spring flowers are increasingly being seen coming into bloom in November and December. By collecting valuable information on when you saw the first Blackthorn blossom or Hazel catkin we will be able to demonstrate how climate change is affecting our wildlife.

To get you started we are particularly interested in sightings of any plants that are flowering earlier than the typical times listed. Download our identification guide to spring flowers and remember to send us in any sightings either via Living Record, you can download a sightings form that you can print out and take with you and use to take notes in the field. 


Hazel catkins, Sharon Pilkington/ WSBRC
Hazel catkins - Corylus avellana
Hazel catkins appear typically from January to March before the large, rounded, toothed, mid-green leaves appear. They start off as long yellow ‘lambstails’ before expanding into golden tassels and releasing their pollen onto the female flowers that are tiny cones of red stigmas.


Wild Daffodil, Barry Craske/ WWT
Wild Daffodil - Narcissus pseudonarcissus
The wild daffodil is a more delicate plant than its cultivated cousin, with a pale yellow perianth around a golden-yellow trumpet. The strap-like, upright, grey-green leaves of the wild daffodil are also distinctive. It flowers from February to April, usually in woods or on moist banks.


Green Hellebore, Rob Large/ WWT
Green Hellebore - Helleborus viridis
This low growing, clump forming perennial typically flowers in March and April. Cup-shaped, light green sepals surround the tiny flowers, and the leaves are deeply divided, forming dark green fingers with serrated edges. They are possibly native in damp, lime-rich woods or shady hedgebanks, but also widely naturalised as a garden escape.



Stinking Hellebore, Rob Large/ WWT
Stinking Hellebore - Helleborus foetidus
The flowers that appear in March and April are cup-shaped with distinctive purple edges to the green, petal-like sepals. The dark-green, deeply divided, evergreen leaves provide garden interest even in winter, but they have an unpleasant scent, and can cause skin irritation.
Primrose, David Kilbey/ WWT
Primrose - Primula vulgaris
The primrose is one of the first plants to come into bloom with flowers appearing as early as January in some mild, sheltered locations, but more typically from March to May. They are low-growing, clump-forming plants with single, pale yellow five-petalled flowers with a darker yellow eye.





wood anemone, Darin Smith/ WWT
Wood Anemone - Anemone nemorosa
These star-like, white flowers can be seen carpeting the woodland floor before the trees burst into leaf between March and May. The flowers are often streaked with pink or purple, especially on the outside, and are carried on a reddish stem. They turn to face the sun throughout its daily journey and are faintly scented. 



Ramson, Darin Smith/ WWT

Ramsons - Allium ursinum The rounded head of star-like flowers cover woodland floors before deciduous trees leaf in the spring, filling the air with their characteristic garlic like scent, which is particularly noticeable when walked upon. This makes them very recognisable and gives them their other common name of Wild Garlic.






Blackthorn flowers, Sharon Pilkington/ WSBRC
Blackthorn - Prunus spinosa
Blackthorn flowers are among the first to be seen in hedgerows between March and May. They have five slightly creamy white petals and appear shortly before the leaves, which are oval, 2-4.5 cm long and have a serrated margin. These hermaphrodite flowers can appear single, in pairs or in close clusters on a small stalk. 



Cuckoo Flower, WWT/ Rob Large

Cuckoo Flower - Cardamine pratensis

This delicate flower has clusters of pale lilac four-petalled flowers produced on a spike 10-30 cm long from April to July. Each flower is 1 to 2 cm diameter. It is a spreading plant with upright stems and the leaves are dark green and deeply lobed becoming narrower towards the top. It grows in damp, seasonally waterlogged meadows, marshes, and alongside stream and riverbanks.

Langford Lakes Coltsfoot, Mike Roberts/ WWT

Coltsfoot - Tussilago farfara

This has a yellow flower and is a perennial plant that stand 10 to 30 cm tall. It likes to colonise bare ground and does best on clay. Superficially it bears a resemblance to dandelions, and its large, deep green leaves do not appear usually until after the seeds are set. Flowers in February and March.

Bluebell, WWT/Darin Smith

Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta

50% of the global population of our native Bluebell is found in the UK and it often carpets the floors of woodland in April with blue. Try not to confuse it with the introduced Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica, which is similar but the flowers hang differently. On our Bluebell the flowers align along one side of the stalk with gravity pulling it down into a distinctive curve, whereas on the Spanish Bluebell the flowers are arranged around the stalk so they stay much more upright.

lesser celandine, Darin Smith/ WWT

Lesser celandine - Ranunculus ficaria

These pretty star-like flowers create a wonderful carpet in damp woodland and grassland areas from late February to May. The small flowers are suspended on stalks no taller than 30cm above glossy dark green leaves making their yellow colour appear even brighter by contrast. Its name ‘celandine’ comes from the Greek chelidon for swallows, as although the plant and the bird may return to the UK at different times, the name still reflects its reputation for being one of the earliest signs of spring.