The Wild Flower Society is a charity
whose main object is to help people, especially young people, to get to
know wild flowers better. One way it does this is through its printed diaries.
There are two kinds of diary; this one is for beginners, the other has
a lot more names printed in it, in alphabetical order of their scientific
There are many different kinds of
wild flowers around you, even if you live in a city, a lot more than there
are of birds for instance. As with birds, not many of them are brightly
coloured, but all are interesting. You cannot expect to learn to recognise
all of them at once very quickly, but with a teacher always at hand to
help you may hope to learn a few in the first year, more in the next year
and so on.
The Diary is a way of communicating
with a teacher, a little at a time. You write what you have found on the
page of the diary, and where and when you found it, day by day as you find
them. Some flowers have their names printed in for you, but there are a
lot more which you might find which are not there, and if you are quite
sure of what you have found you may write the name in for yourself wherever
you think best. There is an example of how to fill in the Diary inside
the back cover.
At the end of October, or sooner
if you are sure you are not going to be able to add any more, you send
or take your Diary to your Branch Secretary to be checked. (You will be
told who your Branch Secretary is when you join the Wild Flower Society).
You can also of course get in touch with your Branch Secretary at any time
during the year if you want help. In the following year there will be a
report by your Branch Secretary on all the branch diaries, in the Society's
Wild Flower Magazine. You must tell your Secretary if you don't want yours
to be mentioned.
Next year, you must start again
with a new Diary. It is by your filling in the Diary over and over again,
with more flowers each time, that the Wild Flower Society helps you to
learn about them. As soon as you can do so easily, you should change to
using the larger Diary mentioned at the top of the page, which is arranged
so that you can use the same Diary for two years.
You will need a book to help you
identify the flowers you find before you can put them in your Diary. There
are lots of books in shops, but the following are particularly aimed at
beginners, the last three especially for young beginners:
Most of these have pictures of wild
flowers, but you should never identify them from pictures alone. Always
read the words about the flower illustrated as well, to check what it says
about the plant and the parts of the country and the sort of place it grows
in. For instance if you have found your plant growing in a lake in Scotland,
and the book says that it grows in hedgerows and woods in southern England,
then you have probably got it wrong. None of the books mentioned contains
all the wild flowers you can find in the British Isles. Once you start
finding flowers which are obviously not in the book you started with, you
will probably want to progress to a book which does have them all, and
for this the obvious choice is New Flora of the British Isles, by Clive
Stace. By this stage you will have discovered that you need to look closely
at plants, using a hand lens magnifying ten times.
The I-Spy Guide to Wild Flowers
The Wild Flower Key, by Francis Rose
Wild Flowers of the British Isles and
Northern Europe, by Pamela Forey
Observer's Wild Flowers, by Francis
Clue Books - Flowers, by Gwen Allen
and Joan Denslow
The Easy Way to Flower Recognition,
Usborne Spotter's Guide - Wild Flowers
I-Spy Wild Flowers
Hamlyn Tracker Guide - Wild Flowers
The flowers in the Diary are grouped
according to colour, starting with yellow flowers, then white, then red
(including pink and purple), then blue (including violet), then green or
brown. Most of the red and blue flowers sometimes have white flowers instead,
and some of the white flowers sometimes have a pinkish tinge; this must
not be taken to mean that you have found something different which may
be put in the Diary separately.
For all the colours except green/brown,
flowers with five petals come first, then flowers with four petals, then
pea-flowers, then the rest. Included in the five and four-petalled flowers
are those with petals slightly joined together, as long as the number of
parts is obvious. Pea-flowers have a special arrangement of the petals,
which is illustrated.
For each flower listed, there is
its common name(s) in English, its scientific name, its botanical family,
the sort(s) of place where it usually grows, and sometimes some notes about
similar plants, or uses, or other features of interest. If you are writing
in extra names you do not have to put in all this of course, just a common
or scientific name to make it absolutely clear which species you mean.
There is a note about scientific
names and botanical families at the end after the index.
The sort of place where a plant
usually grows is called its habitat. The plants listed here are mostly
grouped into eight different kinds of habitat:
You should try to find flowers in all
the different habitats which you can get to easily.
grassland (including the special sort
of grassland which you get when the rock underneath is chalk or limestone)
gardens, waysides etc.
moorland, including mountains and heaths
the seaside, including cliffs, dunes
and salt water habitats
wet places, such as ponds and riversides.
Also you should try to visit your
local habitats at different times of year. This is especially important
of woodland, where most of the flowers are out early in the year before
the leaves of the trees make it too dark on the ground underneath them.
You should also try and find the same plants both in flower and later when
it is setting seed and you can look at the fruit (this means any kind of
container for a plant's seeds, not necessarily a fleshy one like a berry
or an apple).
Scientific names and botanical families
The technical word for a particular
kind of plant (or animal) is species.
There have to be ways in which all
the plants of one species are always different from all the plants
of another species. If a plant sometimes has red flowers and sometimes
white flowers, but there are no other differences between the red-flowered
ones and the white-flowered ones, they are probably all of the same
species, and should only be entered once in the WFS Diary.
But if there are other ways in which the red-flowered plants and
the white-flowered plants are different, for instance if the red ones always
have narrower leaves than the white ones, then they may be different
species. Sometimes red deadnettles have white flowers, but they are still
The scientific name of a species
is always in Latin, so that it is the same in all countries, and
it always consists of two words, the first of which has a capital letter.
Similar species will have the same first word, and very often the second
word is one which describes it, so Lamium means deadnettle, album
means white, purpureum means red, the white deadnettle is Lamium
album and the red deadnettle is Lamium purpureum.
The deadnettles have other plants
which are a bit like them and are in the same deadnettle family.
There are also bugle, ground-ivy, water mint, selfheal, wood sage,
woundwort and yellow archangel in this family. These are all plants
with square stems and leaves arranged two-by-two up the stem, and
most of them have flowers of a similar basic shape, and a definite
Other large families of plants are
the pea family; the daisy family, represented here by burdock, daisies,
mayweed, thistles, knapweed, dandelion, coltsfoot, groundsel, ragwort,
pineappleweed, sow-thistle and yarrow; the rose family with tormentil,
cinquefoil, silverweed, agrimony, avens, blackberry, hawthorn, blackthorn,
meadowsweet and strawberry; the figwort family with brooklime and other
speedwells, foxglove, mullein and toadflaxes; the cabbage family with charlock,
Jack-by-the-hedge, lady's-smock and shepherd's-purse; the primrose family
with cowslip and scarlet and yellow pimpernels as well as primrose; the
borage family, the buttercup family, the cabbage family.
It is not always easy to see what
brings the plants in the same family together. What botanical family a
species is in does not have any bearing on what it is called, but
most books on wild flowers put all the ones in the same family together.
If you can recognise what family a species is in, these books are easier
to use. The families have scientific names, e.g. the primrose family is