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Nature and Weather in South East England

June meadow and field flowers

Picture: lesser stitchwort. Click here for more June meadow and field flower photos.

At the beginning of June meadows are still at their best, but as the month progresses things go to seed and they start to take on an untidy summer appearance. In the early part of the month meadow buttercups can still make intense yellow displays 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.

At the start of the month there is a wavy attractiveness to such sighing grasses but by the second or third week they are looking tired and brown, 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. Looking more closely you can also see lesser stitchwort nestling among the grasses. A diminutive version of the flowers that decorate verges so prettily in April and May, this is a very common meadow flower throughout June.

Pignut - an umbellifer (cow parsley-like flower) growing low to the ground - may also survive in meadows into the early part of the month. The same is also true of the pink flowers of common vetch. A plant that could possibly be confused with this is grass vetchling, which has single bright red flowers, but with grass-like leaves: this is also most likely in the first half. Rarer plants that you may just see in meadows include hairy tare - tiny mauve flowers on pea-like tendrils, which can form large patches - and ragged robin, a pink plant related to red campion which grows in damp places.

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 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 a verge flower.

One rather mysterious flower from the dandelion family that can 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 up 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

Rough hawksbeard can sometimes produce a meadow-like effect in unkempt fields in the first half of the month, and the same is true of hogweed, a chunky relative of cow parsley, which is normally a verge flower. (It is rather strange-smelling, which is perhaps where it gets its name: insects love it.) Thistles spring up in rough fields too - particularly creeping thistles, though they 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 be found in rough fields as well, 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 very variable in the timing of their flowering, out in one place, not yet in another, and sometimes not coming out until July. Towards the end of the month common ragwort, St John's wort, agrimony and smooth hawksbeard also appear in rough grassy places, bringing cheerful yellow colour.

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, mown grass or the edges of grassy paths. The same is true of daisies, classically a flower that carpets mown grass, but also cropping up on other trodden grass or in pasture.

Black medick and birdsfoot trefoil can sometimes form large mats in pasture too, with the former also occasionally cropping up in lawns, while catsear is sometimes found in great profusion on uncut lawns or suburban grassy banks, as well as sometimes in short grass fields. On acid soils or heathland tiny sheep's sorrel can form reddish patches.

Other flowers you can see in short grass include some surviving germander speedwell early in the month or self heal towards its end. Dovesfoot cranesbill seems to be mostly found in mown grass, though occasionally on verges. It is worth looking closely at it, however, as the somewhat similar common storksbill also sometimes crops up in short grass on sandy soils. Mouse-ear is possible in grassy fields, at least early in the month, and the similar but more delicate lesser stitchwort can crop up right till its end in rough fields. Yellow rattle, more normally found on downland, occasionally establishes itself in lowland grassland.

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