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June meadow and field flowers

Other June pages: Wayside flowers Downland and seaside flowers • Hedgerow, trees and berries • Birds • Butterflies and insects • Weather

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At the start of June it is still high spring – with big swathes of cheerful flowers and blossom, and everything in the countryside a verdant green. But as the month progresses things go to seed: meadows become overgrown and the countryside starts to take on a untidy summer appearance. However this is actually the time of the year with the biggest variety of wild flowers.

Meadows go to seed

In the early part of June meadow buttercups can still make intense yellow displays in meadows but these don't last much beyond the second week. You can still find some in flower right till the end of the month but in general in the second half they are being smothered by tall grasses. In the first half of the month there is a wavy attractiveness to such sighing grasses but later they start to look ragged, with the seedheads dominating. Traditionally late June or early July was when meadows were cut for hay and one can see this practice continuing on some farms, the cut grass being at first left in situ to dry and then gathered up into black plastic bales. These then become silage, winter fodder for livestock. 22 June is also "hay day" - statistically the time of peak grass pollen.

Early in the month ragged ears of common sorrel give meadows a pleasing reddish tinge but they are largely over by mid month. Smaller flowers, that you have to look closer to see, include lesser stitchwort, a diminutive version of the flowers that decorate verges so prettily in April and May: this is a very common meadow flower in June, though is fading towards the end of the month. Similar, but less delicate, is mouse ear, also occasionally found in meadows. Lesser stitchwort petals are evenly spaced whereas those of mouse-ear are grouped in twos (actually one petal deeply notched). Mouse ear also has thicker stems, is hairy, and has smaller flowers.

You can also see the tiny mauve flowers and pea-like tendrils of hairy tare, and - if you are lucky - the single bright red pea flowers of grass vetchling. Pignut may survive early in the month and very rarely in damp meadows you may see pink ragged robin. The tiny pink flowers of common vetch may also last into June and ribwort plantain may occur at any time of the month.

White and red clover also can be seen in meadows throughout the month. Rarely you may also see common broomrape, a parasite on clover. In the second half purple tufted vetch and yellow meadow vetchling can both form sizeable clumps in long grass, and you sometimes see attractive patches of knapweed. Oxeye daisies occasionally make patches too, though they are more usually verge flowers. Sometimes rough, beaked or smooth hawksbeard also make a good showing in meadows.

One rather mysterious flower from the dandelion family that can quite often be seen in meadows in June is goatsbeard. Or rather it is usually not seen. Its beautiful yellow flowers open only in the early morning closing down around as the sun gets high to leave very distinctive ribbed heads that look as if they are about to bloom or about to go to seed. It is most easily identified by its large fluffy seed heads, which are like those of dandelions, only about twice as big. It is the only dandelion family plant with grass-like leaves.

June is also the month for corncockle and cornflower - arable weeds in their natural state. If you see either in a meadow these days, however, it is a sure sign that it has been planted using a wildflower seed mix.

Rough fields, pasture and mown grass

The hawksbeards (mentioned above) can also sometimes produce a meadow-like effect in unkempt fields. Another flower of in this category is hogweed, a chunky (and rather strange-smelling) relative of cow parsley, which is normally a verge flower but sometimes spreads across June fields to not unattractive effect. Thistles also spring up in rougher fields - particularly creeping thistle, though it does not flower until the very end of the month, if then. The tall and very spiny marsh thistle may bloom from quite early in the month, however.

Common sorrel can also be found in rough fields, but from mid month it is giving away to the not-dissimilar dock, the two most common species being curled dock and broad-leaved dock. In both cases the flowers give the plant a rusty look, as if they have already gone over, and both are somewhat variable in the timing of their flowering, out in one place, not yet in another. On acid soils or heathland tiny sheep's sorrel can form reddish patches.

In grazed pasture and other shorter grass there can still be intense mats of creeping buttercup early in the month but they tend to have faded by the end of the second week, leaving just a few flowers to survive until late in the month. Both red and white clover can also make big displays. White clover flourishes particularly on trampled grass and may carpet pasture fields or the edges of grassy paths.

Black medick and birdsfoot trefoil can sometimes form large mats in pasture too, and you may just see some germander speedwell early in the month or self heal towards its end. Mouse-ear is possible, at least early in the month, and the similar but more delicate lesser stitchwort can crop up right till its end. Yellow rattle occasionally establishes itself.

In mown grass - suburban road verges, parks, churchyards - daisies and catsear can be seen in big quantities in June: both also sometimes crop up in short grass fields. White clover forms big patches in mown grass too, and you sometimes see dovesfoot cranesbill and, towards the end of the month, self heal.

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