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September flowers

Other September pages: Berries, fruits, nuts and seeds • Leaf fall • Birds • Insects, butterflies and animalsWeather

Put your cursor over any photo to see its caption, or click here to see more September flower photos.

Even at the start of September flower numbers are very much reduced from their summer highs, but you can still see a wide range of species. As the month goes this reduces rapidly and you increasingly see flowers in ones and twos. Some species (particularly dandelions, catsears and hawkbits - see below) can put on quite good displays right to the end of the month, however.

Grassland and grassy verges

Flowers of downland, meadow and grassy verge that may survive into September include harebell, mignonette, restharrow, birdsfoot trefoil, cinquefoil, tormentil, rock rose, red bartsia, St John's wort, agrimony, ribwort plantain, lesser stitchwort, burnet saxifrage, hedge parsley and wild parsnip. Sightings of these tend to be early in the month but isolated examples may crop up later.

Flowers that more often last till later in the month include wild carrot, black medick, eyebright and self-heal. Even hardier are clover (usually red but sometimes white), knapweed, field scabious, marjoram, wild basil, yarrow and daisy which can be found right into October. Much less common, but still very occasionally cropping up into October, are devilsbit scabious and clustered bellflower (the latter possible to confuse with the much rarer autumn gentian, which occurs in the Chilterns as the Chiltern gentian).

There are also some grassland flowers that seem to revive in a small way in September (that is, have a new burst of flowering). These include creeping and meadow buttercup, dovesfoot cranesbill, common century, yellow-wort and mouse-ear

Dandelions have a very definite second flowering and in some years become quite widespread. It is easy to confuse these with catsears and hawkbits (see next paragaph) which form the vast majority of dandelion-like flowers over the summer; by contrast the main flowering time for dandelions is March to May, with only very occasional ones encountered over the summer. But in September there is a pronounced resurgence of them. They can be distinguished from their near relatives by their larger flowers and thick milky stems, and many go on to produce their characteristic fluffy round seed heads later in the month.

Common catsear and autumn hawkbit also continue to be common in September (and also have something of a revival during the month), and grassland and verges can be dotted with them well into October. In addition you may see lesser hawkbit and the very occasional rough hawkbit, the latter usually on downland. Looking fairly similiar to all these, though with smaller flowers on more complex plants, is smooth hawksbeard which can be found throughout the month. (For larger plants with dandelion-like flowers, see Wayside below.)

Wayside

Various summer wayside flowers linger on into September. Tansy, purple toadflax and the last dregs of rosebay willowherb, great willowherb, broad-leaved willowherb and hemp agrimony tend to be only seen at the start of the September, if at all, but common fleabane and Canadian goldenrod can last longer. Common toadflax even continues flowering into October.

These are all survivors from the summer, as are the purple michaelmas daisies (actually a type of aster) which grow particularly along railway lines but also on other verges throughout the month. These can be at their best at the month’s end (Michelmas is 29 September).

With other flowers it is hard to tell if they are stragglers from summer or new growth from seed - perhaps the distinction is a fuzzy one anyway. Definitely flowering from new growth in September are ragwort (often hoary ragwort, but occasionally common ragwort) and hogweed, which increases again on verges after something of a high summer break. Other species that could be new growth or stragglers include evening primrose, red campion, white campion, bladder campion, hedgerow cranesbill, green alkanet, wood avens (aka herb bennet), herb robert, common mallow, chicory, greater celandine, nettle-leaved bellflower and black horehound.

Isolated examples of these can crop up at any time of the month and you may also see the occasional red deadnettle, common hemp nettle, bush vetch or musk mallow. Meanwhile though white deadnettles can be around in small numbers all summer, September seems to produce a marked uptick.

Otherwise on verges, the big white trumpets of large and hedge bindweed can be seen all month and early in September you may find some pink field bindweed or broad-leaved everlasting pea. Another wayside climber – traveller's joy – has gone to seed but its seeds do not yet have the fluffy appearance that gives it its winter name of old man’s beard. Mainly earlier in the month, though sometimes later, you can also see occasional thistles in flower - including creeping, spear, marsh and musk thistle - though most have gone to seed by now. Some of these are definitely new growth.

Larger plants with dandelion-like flowers (for smaller ones, see Grassland above) include smooth sow thistle with its triangular-ended leaves, prickly sow thistle, and maybe also perennial sow thistle (aka corn sow thistle) with its showy flowers. You may see the occasional nipplewort on verges too. Bristly oxtongue - an ugly spiky plant but with pretty yellow blooms - is common in some places on verges throughout the month, particularly nearer the sea but also inland as well. The occasional hawkweed - maybe narrow-leaved hawkweed or hawkweed oxtongue - may also crop up.

Flowering shrubs include buddleia, which may still have some flowers well into the month, and gorse, where young shoots (new growth) may start to put out yellow flowers, though mature plants hold off until the end of the autumn. Honeysuckle and bittersweet (woody nightshade) can also still have flowers in September, and you may just see some burdock flowers very early in the month. Weirdly, dogwood sometimes produces new blooms even as its leaves start to tint. This is also the month for ivy flowers: see September berries, fruits, nuts and seeds for more on this.

Heather continues to be in flower in the early part of the month, but mostly has faded by mid month.

Arable and urban verges

Another good place to find September flowers is in fields where crops have been harvested. Scentless mayweed lasts on field margins well into November and you may just find some stinking chamomile (smaller flowers, aromatic). Tiny plants such as field speedwell, scarlet pimpernel, and field pansy also spring up, taking advantage of the newly cleared land - or were they there hidden by the crops all along? - and you may just see field madder or pineapple weed, the latter looking like a mayweed without petals but having a definite pineapple aroma when rubbed. Also possible till late in the month is the occasional poppy or redleg.

Sometimes seen around arable fields in September, and on verges elsewhere, are various confusing members of the brassica family – eg radish, charlock, hedge mustard and black or hoary mustard. Or are you looking at oilseed rape crops that have re-seeded?

There is also a whole category of opportunist weeds such as groundsel, chickweed, shepherd's purse, fat hen, common orache, goosefoot and knotgrass which can appear on bare agricultural ground but more often seem to appear in urban corners or on bare path verges. Chickweed does seem to have a revival in September, perhaps as the ground gets moister. Knotgrass is in flower in the first half of September but its blooms are too tiny to be noticed.

In some years you can get a big eruption of Canadian fleabane in urban locations in September too. Some Oxford ragwort can linger on the clinker of rail lines, as well as in other stony habitats.

Garden escapees

Flowers that are particularly associated with sheltered walls in gardens include yellow corydalis, ivy-leaved toadflax and mexican fleabane: all may still be found right up to the end of the month. You can also see the strange pink flowers of ivy-leaved cyclamen, usually on verges near gardens, from where they have probably escaped, and, early in the month, monbretia, with its bright orange flowers. Some French cranesbill may also survive on verges near habitation and red valerian may still be growing out of garden walls.

Another garden escapee, Russian vine, is at its best right throughout September too – a mass of white flowers, draped over a fence or hedgerow. The dangerously invasive Japanese knotweed, which has similar but much less showy flowers, also blooms this month, if it is allowed to. Sometimes clematis montana, a pink-flowered climber which drapes over suburban fences and which mainly flowers in spring, also puts out a few new blooms in September, as does rosemary (strictly a garden plant).

River and seaside

By rivers himalayan balsam can survive all month (there is a much rarer orange balsam that occasionally crops up too), and you may see some marsh woundwort. Water mint can be found in damp places, while purple loosestrife and angelica linger on river banks. White water lilies are sometimes still in bloom on ponds. You may also get a revival of meadowsweet and comfrey - probably Russian comfrey rather than the native variety. Rarely you might see some water forget-me-not or water chickweed.

By the sea there may still be some sea lavender, rock sea-lavender, asters (probably garden escapees - the true sea aster looks like a michelmas daisy and is quite rare), sea mayweed, pink-flowered sea rocket, red valerian or rock samphire, as well as the occasional yellow-horned poppy or clump of fennel. Golden samphire - a very rare plant - lasts into early September on Durlston Head near Swanage.

Mats of orache - common or spear-leaved - can still be seen on shingle, and sea purslane may still be in flower early in the month on the edge of salt marshes and tidal rivers, though it is frankly hard to tell if this plant is flowering or not: the same is true of the remaining stalks of sea beet. Tamarisk - a common semi-wild shrub in seafront parks and gardens - still has some pink flowers. New shoots of vipers bugloss, with tiny blue flowers, can also sometimes be seen on downland near the sea.

New shoots

New creeping thistle shoots are common in September, and sometimes they produce light-coloured new growth that looks a bit like lettuce. Ragwort shoots are also everywhere, some bursting into flower. As the month goes on one can also see the leaves of new cow parsley plants, which amazingly will last the whole winter before flowering in May. The same is true of the new foliage of alexanders, which start growing in coastal locations near the desiccated stalks (identifiable by their black seeds) of this year's flowers. One can also see new cleavers (goosegrass) shoots on verges and wasteground.

Other plant shoots which will last the winter to flower next spring or summer include yarrow, dovesfoot cranesbill, garlic mustard, wood avens (aka herb bennet), spear thistle, the argentatum variety of yellow archangel, dandelions and alkanet.

In contrast, the shoots you can see now of herb robert and hogweed are killed off by the winter cold. With stinging nettles the picture is confused: many summer nettles have yet to die back and others that seeded later in the summer are half grown: some of these do seem to survive the winter, and some may be white deadnettle, which is sometimes still in flower at this time - when young, the two species look almost identical.

Fungi

September is a good month mushrooms and other fungi, but this depends on the weather. They like cool nights and damp conditions, so October is often a better time to spot them.

More September pages:


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