How to identify spring hedgerow species

Hedgerows across the country are about to burst into life - here are 12 species to spot that herald the arrival of spring.

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Hawthorn

    

                                                                                        lllustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

1. Hawthorn (above)

Height usually under 8m. Fresh leaves (edible) open in March, earliest in south or sheltered areas. Frothy blossom in late April and May.

 

 

2. Blackthorn

Height usually under 4m. Masses of white flowers on thorny twigs. One of the first hedgerow and woodland-edge trees to blossom.

 

 

3. Early dog violet 

Height up to 15cm. Lilac flowers. Woods and hedgerows. Spur behind each flower is dark (pale in similar common dog violet).

 

 

4. Elder

Height up to 10m. Leaflets unfurl in March or even February. Tree with a weed-like ability to thrive on waste ground and verges.

 

 

5. Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage

Height up to 10cm. Creeping plant forming mats in wet woodland; tiny yellow flower clusters.

 

 

6. Sweet violet

Height up to 15cm. Scented purple or white flowers. Woods and hedgerows. Grows from creeping runners, unlike dog violet.

 

 

7. Wych elm

Height up to 30m. Bunches of purple-pink flowers in February–March. Woodland and old hedgerows, especially in hills.

 

 

8. Wood sorrel

Height up to 10cm. Delicate, drooping white flowers. Leaves in threes, like clover; taste acidic and lemony. Mossy woodland.

 

 

9. Marsh marigold

Height up to 30cm. Golden flowers like giant buttercups. Glossy green leaves. Water margins, ditches and damp or flooded woods.

 

 

10. Primrose

Height up to 15cm. Yellow flowers in rosette of wrinkled leaves. Early-flowering or pink blooms may be garden polyanthus crosses.

 

 

11. Herb Robert

Height usually under 30cm. Abundant ‘weed’ with pretty pink flowers; fern-like leaves redden with age. Whole plant smells mousy.

 

 

12. Germander speedwell

Height up to 20cm. Brilliant azure flowers. One of the first flowers in pasture and grassy clearings and rides; also on banks.

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