Other November pages: Leaf fall and autumn colours • Bushes, berries and seeds • Birds and insects • Weather
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It seems ludicrous that any flowers can still be seen in November but amazingly there are still some, albeit usually very isolated examples, and most seen in the first ten days or so of the month. Mostly these are probably new growth from seeds sown in late summer, which have taken advantage of favourable climactic conditions. What species appear varies from year to year, with more being seen in milder Novembers, while in some years - for example, 2012 - there are none. Hard frosts will kill many of the remaining flowers off, but not necessarily all of them.
Species that you may see include hawkweed oxtongue and other dandelion-like flowers such as smooth hawksbeard, nipplewort, smooth sow thistle, catsear, lesser hawkbit and autumn hawkbit - also bristly oxtongue which is usually though not exclusively found near coastal areas. You may even see the occasional true dandelion.
Of grassland flowers, I have seen clover, daisies and yarrow in November, while around the edge of arable fields one might find field speedwell, mayweed, groundsel and shepherd's purse. The last two can also be seen in odd corners in urban environments, where you also see quite a bit of chickweed and maybe some hairy bittercress, though it has to be a very mild November for either of these to flower. Sometimes bare arable fields are also taken over by radish, which has rather attractive white or pink flowers, and you can see the odd example of charlock.
White deadnettle also survives into November some years, and occasionally you get some red deadnettle. Otherwise on verges you might see some late surviving hogweed or bindweed (hedge or large) early in the month. Hedgerow cranesbill, ragwort, red or white campion, and herb robert flowers also sometimes appear.
On railway lines in London you may see Oxford ragwort clinging on and some michaelmas daisies may also survive on railway verges. Around old walls or gardens you may see Mexican fleabane (a daisy bush), yellow corydalis or ivy-leaved toadflax.
Some fungi - for example fly agaric - may survive into November even though a hard frost is supposed to kill them off, and bracket fungi on trees and decaying logs carry on regardless.
Next year's flowers
Amazingly in November you can already see the plants of next year's flowers starting to grow. On verges you can see the new leaves of cow parsley (which really do look like parsley at this time of year), as well as the new shoots of garlic mustard and cleavers (aka goosegrass).
These are definitely new growth, grabbing their territory for next year's flowering season, but other flower plants one sees are perennials, which flowered this year and will last throughout the winter to flower in the next. In grassland these include buttercups - very common - as well as cranesbills, cinquefoil, ribwort plantain, yarrow, clover and daisies. On shady verges you can also see the leaves of herb bennet (aka wood avens) and the silver-streaked "argentatum" variety of yellow archangel, while woodruff can be found in woodland. Herb robert shoots in shady locations are probably on the way out as most do not survive the winter (though some do).
Dandelion shoots - some quite mature, others obviously new - are also common, as are some catsear/hawkbits. Stinging nettles include this year's plants dying back, but there also new shoots on bare ground. Some of these new shoots may be white deadnettles - if not flowering they look almost identical to stinging nettles. Also on verges you can see green alkanet and mallow leaves, which are both perennial, and foxglove and ragwort which are biennial - that is, they grew from seed this year and will flower next year, then die.
On wasteground and in odd urban corners there can be an upsurge in chickweed and smooth sow thistles, both of which look as if they are about to flower but somehow never quite do: the same is true of the occasional hairy bittercress plant. Growing out of walls you can still see ivy-leaved toadflax leaves. The large rosettes of spear thistles still survive but creeping thistles are now shrivelling to brown as they die back. On bare paths you can see greater plantain leaves.
Some arable fields at this time of year have the green shoots of winter wheat. By the sea you can see the new foliage of alexanders and the plants of perennial species such as silver ragwort, rock sea-lavender, rock samphire, sea beet, red valerian, tree mallow and stonecrop: also wild cabbage on the shores around Folkestone and Dover
For some photos of flower shoots you can see now and later in the winter, click here.
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