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November flowers

Other November pages: Leaf fall and autumn coloursBushes, berries and seedsBirds and insectsWeather

Picture: dandelion leaves. Click here for more November shoots photos.

It seems ludicrous that any flowers can still be seen in November but amazingly there are still some, albeit usually very isolated examples and mostly seen in the first half of the month. These are often new growth from seeds dispersed in the summer which have taken advantage of favourable microclimates in a particular spot, though a few are hardy survivors that have carried on flowering through the autumn. What species appear varies from year to year, with more being seen in milder Novembers. 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, autumn hawkbit and (very occasionally on downland) rough hawkbit. Also bristly oxtongue which is often though not exclusively found near coastal areas. The occasional true dandelion can crop up on verges or in pasture fields.

Other grassland flowers that may be seen include clover, daisies and yarrow and just occasionally some meadow or creeping buttercups, while field scabious and knapweed may just last into the very early days of the month.

Around the edge of arable fields one might find field speedwell, field pansy, scentless mayweed, prickly sow thistle, charlock, groundsel, shepherd's purse, chicory or black nightshade. Sometimes charlock also takes over whole fields, and the same is true of wild radish, which has attractive white flowers. Groundsel and shepherd's purse can also be seen in odd corners in urban environments, where you may additionally find chickweed, though it mostly seems to be struggling to flower rather than actually doing so. Annual mercury is occasionally seen in the same habitat, as well as on farms, while hairy bittercress may just crop up in urban settings in mild years.

White deadnettle also survives into November some years, and occasionally you get some red deadnettle on arable margins or on bare path edges. Otherwise on verges there always seems to be the occasional late surviving hogweed, while hedgerow cranesbill, ragwort, red campion and herb robert flowers are much more infrequent. Equally infrequently, some of the newly emerged alkanet leaves put forward a few feeble blue flowers. Early in the month you may just see black horehound in the last throes of flowering, or a final bloom on large or hedge bindweed.

On railway line clinker in cities and towns there can be some Oxford ragwort clinging on, and a very few michaelmas daisy flowers also survive trackside and in gardens, though they are looking very tired by now. At the base of garden walls there can be a few remaining flowers of Mexican fleabane (a daisy bush) or yellow corydalis, and the same is true of ivy-leaved toadflax growing out of cracks higher up the wall. Ivy-leaved cyclamen flowers can last into the early part of the month on village verges, and near gardens you may just see a periwinkle flower.

Just occasionally meadowsweet can be found in flower by a river, while by the sea there might be a few flowers struggling to survive or come out on red valerian, and some fading flowers on sea mayweed.

Some fungi - for example fly agaric (near birch in woodland) or trooping funnel (on the floors of woodland or clearings) - can survive into November, even though a hard frost is supposed to kill them off. Bracket fungi on trees and decaying logs carry on regardless, and around tree stumps you may still find the attractive sulphur tuft.

Next year's flowers

Amazingly, in November the plants of next year's flowers are already 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 garlic mustard, wood avens (aka herb bennet) and cleavers. Some of these have been there since September, though others join them in November, pushing through the leaf litter.

These are definitely new growth, grabbing their territory for next year's flowering season, but the leaves of other plants remain from this year's growing season and last through the winter to flower in the next. In grassland these include buttercups - very common - as well as cranesbills, cinquefoil, ribwort plantain, yarrow, clover, daisies and, on downland, salad burnet.

On shady verges you can also see the silver-streaked "argentatum" variety of yellow archangel, while woodruff can be found in woodland, along with foxglove in woodland clearings, as well as on sometimes on verges. The leaves of creeping comfrey, generally found on verges near rural houses, can also look a bit similar to those of foxglove. Perwinkle leaves sometimes carpet woodland floors and shady verges, often, though not always near houses. 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 in grass or on bare ground, and on verges you can see some new leaves of nipplewort. Also on verges you find the foliage of common mallow and greater celandine. The leaves of forget-me-not are generally found near habitation, while in the same kind of places alkanet is producing new leaves at this time of year. The big rounded leaves you may see on verges near villages (as well as on the cliff tops near Kingsdown in Kent) are those of winter heliotrope, which will flower later in December.

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.

As mentioned in the opening section above, in odd urban corners there can be an upsurge in chickweed, a small amount of which may actually flower. The same is true of smooth sow thistle. Growing out of walls you can still see ivy-leaved toadflax leaves. On rural verges and in grassland, the large rosettes of spear thistles survive, and prickly sow thistle produces a rosette on bare and fallow fields. In grassland creeping thistles are now wilting or shrivelling to brown as they die back, though a few small green leaves can still survive till the end of the month.

You can also see the new leaves of ragwort, a plant which is biennial - that is, it grows from seed one year, will flower next year, then die. On bare ground note the warty rosettes of bristly oxtongue, and those of teasel, which could be mistaken at a glance for the leaves of primroses (which do not appear until late January).

The remaining dock leaves are generally on the way out, though if the weather is mild you can sometimes see new ones appearing: whether these last the winter, I am not sure. The same applies to the ground elder shoots which one occasionally sees bursting though on road or path-side verges.

Some arable fields at this time of year have the green shoots of winter wheat, which at this stage of the year looks just like green grass, albeit in neat straight lines. It stays this short until March, when it starts to grow taller). If you see an arable field covered with low cabbage-like plants, this is oilseed rape which will produce seas of yellow flowers in April.

In chalk streams you can see watercress leaves, and by the sea you can see the luxuriant new foliage of alexanders (one reason it was introduced to this country by the Romans as a winter herb). Also by the sea - on shingle beaches and seafronts - you can see the plants of silver ragwort, rock samphire, sea beet, red valerian, tree mallow, stonecrop, buckshorn plantain, sea mayweed, hottentot fig and aster (the garden escapee variety). New shoots of yellow-horned poppy may also be evident on shingle beaches, while rock-sea lavender grows on chalk cliff faces. In addition note wild cabbage on the shores around Folkestone and Dover, and sea purslane and sea lavender in salt marshes.

For some photos of flower shoots you can see now and later in the winter, click here.

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