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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 usually though not exclusively found near coastal areas. The occasional true dandelion can also 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, scentless mayweed, prickly sow thistle, charlock, groundsel, shepherd's purse or (rarely) black nightshade. 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. Sometimes bare arable fields are taken over by radish, which has rather attractive white flowers. Usually in bare urban places (but occasionally in rural ones) annual mercury can crop up.

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 some late surviving hogweed, while hedgerow cranesbill, ragwort, red or white campion, and herb robert flowers are much more infrequent.

On railway lines in London you may see Oxford ragwort and some michaelmas daisies clinging on. The latter can also be found in gardens, along with the very occasional periwinkle flower. On old walls you may also find a few remaining flowers of Mexican fleabane (a daisy bush) or yellow corydalis. By the sea, there may 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 or trooping funnel - 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.

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). 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 other plants one sees are perennials, which flowered this year and will last throughout the winter to bloom 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 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 in grass or on bare ground, and you may see new catsear or hawkbit shoots. You can also see some new leaves of nipplewort. On verges you find the foliage of common mallow and forget-me-not, both of which are perennial, and foxglove and ragwort which are biennial - that is, they grew from seed this year and will flower next year, then die. Alkanet, also perennial, is producing new leaves at this time of year, while greater celandine shoots crop up occasionally. The big rounded leaves you may see emerging 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 to stinging nettles.

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. Growing out of walls you can still see ivy-leaved toadflax leaves. The large rosettes of spear thistles survive but 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. The remaining dock leaves are generally on the way out.

Some arable fields at this time of year have the green shoots of winter wheat, which at this stage of the year look just like green grass (they stay this way till March, when they start 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. On bare ground or fallow fields you may also see some greater plantain leaves.

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) and the plants of perennial species such as silver ragwort, rock sea-lavender, rock samphire, sea beet, red valerian, tree mallow, stonecrop, buckshorn plantain, sea mayweed, hottentot fig and aster (the garden escapee variety). In addition note wild cabbage on the shores around Folkestone and Dover, and sea purslane and sea lavender in salt marshes. Also by the sea - though inland on bare ground as well - you can see the rosettes of bristly oxtongue and teasel, the latter often by the desiccated plants of the past summer.

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

More November pages:


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