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September flowers and fungi

Other September pages: Berries, fruits, nuts and seedsLeaf fallBirdsInsects, butterflies and animalsWeather

Picture: common fleabane. Click here for more September flower and fungi photos.

Even at the start of September flower numbers are very much reduced from their summer highs, but you can still see a wide range of species. As the month goes on this reduces rapidly and you increasingly see flowers only in ones and twos. However, some species (particularly dandelions, catsears and hawkbits - see below) can put on quite good displays right to the end of the month.

Grassland and grassy verges

Flowers of downland, meadow and grassy verges that may survive into September include harebell, mignonette, restharrow, birdsfoot trefoil, cinquefoil, silverweed, tormentil, rock rose, red bartsia, St John's wort, common fleabane, agrimony, ribwort plantain, lesser stitchwort, burnet saxifrage, wild parsnip, wild carrot, black medick, eyebright and self heal. Sightings of these tend to be early in the month but isolated examples may crop up later.

It is often hard to tell with such flowers whether they are the remains of a summer population or grown new from seed produced earlier in the year. But species that definitely do sometimes seem to revive on downland in September include common centaury, yellow-wort, vervain and - occasionally - lady's or hedge bedstraw, while in lowland grassland you see some new creeping and meadow buttercup (particularly the latter), and occasionally mouse ear.

Hardier grassland flowers, which can last till late in the month and be found now and then into October, include red and white clover, knapweed, field scabious, marjoram, wild basil, yarrow, ragwort (both common and hoary) and daisy. Greater knapweed has attractive golden cups after its flowers fade, which are a frequent sight on downland this month, but look carefully, as the flowers of carline thistle (which always look as if they have gone over) are quite similar at a casual glance.

This is also the best month for devilsbit scabious - not particularly common, but growing in profusion on some downland sites: try the bottom of the slope behind Belle Tout near Birling Gap, or the south eastern end of Yoesden reserve in the Chilterns. Downland is also where you see the rather elusive autumn gentian or its very similar Chiltern gentian variant (again, for example, at Yoesden). Don't confuse these with clustered bellflowers, which are mostly over by now, but still may just crop up.

Dandelions have a very definite second flowering and in some years become quite widespread. It is easy to confuse these with catsears and hawkbits (see next paragaph) which form the vast majority of dandelion-like flowers over the summer; by contrast the main flowering time for dandelions is March to May, with only very occasional ones encountered over the summer. But in September there is a definite resurgence of them. They can be distinguished from their near relatives by their larger flowers and thick milky stems, and many go on to produce their characteristic fluffy round seed heads later in the month.

Common catsear and autumn hawkbit also continue to be common in September, and grassland and verges can be dotted with them well into October. The latter is easy to confuse with smooth hawksbeard, both plants having branched stems and somewhat smaller flowers than catsear, with a reddish tinge to the back of their flower petals. (The more arrow-shaped basal leaves of the autumn hawkbit should make identification easy, but they are often hard to find: on catsear the underside of the petals is tinged grey or green.)

In addition you may see lesser hawkbit in shorter grass (small flowered, with a grey underside to its petals), and the very occasional rough hawkbit (hairy stems) on downland. (For larger plants with dandelion-like flowers, see Wayside below.)


Various summer wayside flowers linger on into September. The last dregs of rosebay willowherb, great willowherb, broad-leaved willowherb and hemp agrimony tend to be only seen at the start of the September, if at all, but tansy and Canadian goldenrod can last into the second half, while common toadflax continues flowering into October most years.

With other flowers it is hard to tell if they are stragglers from summer or new growth. This is true of evening primrose and great mullein, both of which can appear by railway lines or on other similar wasteground long after you have assumed they are over for the year. You also sometimes come across ribbed melilot and get the occasional dark mullein in grassier spots.

Hedgerow cranesbill, common mallow, musk mallow, nettle-leaved bellflower and black horehound could also be in either category, but definitely new growth is hogweed, which crops up from time to time on verges. The same is true of white deadnettle, which can be found in places throughout the summer but does seem to have something of an uptick in the autumn, while the very occasional red deadnettle or bush vetch you see seem to be mistaking early autumn conditions for their normal flowering time in spring. Green alkanet flowers also sometimes sprout from stunted new growth near habitation.

Meanwhile for purple michaelmas daisies (actually a type of aster), September is their peak flowering season. They can be found all month, but are at their best at the month's end (Michaelmas is 29 September). They grow particularly along railway lines and in gardens, but also crop up on other verges.

In woodland or shady spots you may just see enchanter's nightshade, small balsam, wall lettuce or the lemon-scented balm lingering on in the first few days of September, while lesser spearwort (easy to overlook because it looks like a buttercup) can last till later in the month. Herb robert, wood avens and red campion (all three of them probably new growth) may be seen or even into October. White campion is also very occasionally found on grassy verges in the open.

Mainly earlier in the month, though sometimes later, you can still see occasional thistles in flower - including creeping, spear, welted, musk and (much more rarely) marsh thistle. In the case of creeping thistle these are almost always new growth, since the plant spreads by suckers and is still enthusiastically putting out new foliage in September.

Larger plants with dandelion-like flowers (for smaller ones, see Grassland above) include smooth sow thistle with its triangular-ended leaves, prickly sow thistle which looks more like a yellow thistle, and perennial sow thistle (aka corn sow thistle) with its showy flowers. You may see the occasional nipplewort too. Bristly oxtongue - an rather ugly spiky plant but with pretty yellow blooms - and hawkweed oxtongue, which is easily confused with it - are both found throughout the month. Both grow on seafronts and rail lines, but can crop up on other wasteground or verges. Hawkweed oxtongue also seems to like downland.

Arable and urban

In the first half of September cylindrical bales of straw dot fields of wheat that have been harvested. You may also still see some bales of hay wrapped in black plastic, destined for winter livestock feed. But by mid month nearly all of them have been gathered in.

As the month goes on, arable fields are ploughed (or more usually these days, it seems, lightly tilled), and new seeds planted with a seed drill. The drilling can sometimes be done without any ploughing at all - "direct drilling". Towards the end of September new green shoots of winter wheat can appear, though it is important to distinguish these from grass growing up amongst the stubble.

The leaves of next year's oilseed rape crop can also be seen later in the month, but looking very similar are cover crops such as stubble turnip or white mustard, designed to restore nutrients to the soil and protect sown crops from weeds. These will either be removed later in the winter, or - in the case of stubble turnip - may provide winter grazing for sheep.

Otherwise the newly-cleared arable fields are a good place to find wildflowers. In particular the daisy-like scentless mayweed lasts on field margins into October, and you may just find some of the similar-looking but more straggly stinking chamomile (smaller flowers, aromatic foliage: not really so very unpleasant smelling). Pineapple weed is mostly gone by now, but where it survives looks like either of these flowers without their petals: it has a definite pineapple aroma when rubbed.

Tiny flowers such as field speedwell, scarlet pimpernel, and field pansy also spring up, taking advantage of the newly cleared land - or were they there hidden by the crops all along? Also possible till late in the month is the occasional poppy.

Much more rarely you may see tiny pink field madder, blue-flowered chicory or borage, or the frizzy purple tansy-leaved phacelia, the latter an escapee from meadow grass seed mixes and now planted as a set-aside crop. Other elusive agricultural specialists include fool's parsley, an umbellifer (ie cow parsley-like plant), and black bindweed, which has white flowers and the arrow-like leaf shape characteristic of its plant family.

Prickly sow thistle can be found an arable weed as well, and occasionally smooth sow thistle or perennial (aka corn) sow thistle. You may see white-flowered wild radish, while yellow crucifers, almost always new growth, include charlock, hedge mustard and black mustard.

There are also overlooked opportunist weeds such as groundsel, shepherd's purse, fat hen, annual mercury, redleg and knotgrass which can appear on bare agricultural ground but more often seem to be seen in urban corners or on bare path verges. (Knotgrass is still in flower in the first half of September but its blooms are too tiny to be noticed.) Black nightshade seems to occur on urban waysides more often than in its original arable setting too: it has white flowers and sometimes a (poisonous) green, purple or black berry.

Another plant of odd urban corners, which can also grow in grassy fields, is chickweed, which revives in September as the ground gets moister, producing lots of new leaves and even a few tentative flowers. The same is sometimes true of wavy bittercress, though it is for the most part found in more rural wayside settings.

Canadian fleabane can still be in flower on urban wasteground, though it is one of those plants where it is very hard to tell if it is in fact in bloom or not. The same might be said of the spear-leaved orache that can be seen along the edge of main roads. Some Oxford ragwort can linger on the clinker of rail lines, as well as in other bare places, while rare weeds of urban places include shaggy or gallant soldier (mostly in the London area) and the attractive, though very inconspicuous, spreading yellow sorrel.

Flowering shrubs and hedgerow climbers

Heather continues to be in flower in the early part of the month, though is past its peak and has mostly faded by mid month. Some bell heather can survive till late in the month, however. You also see dwarf gorse in flower on sandy heaths, at least early in the month. From mid month onwards you may also see full-sized gorse putting out a few tentative blooms, particularly on the south coast, though October or November is a more normal time for this.

Other flowering shrubs include buddleia, which may still have some blooms early in the month, though most of them have gone over, and very early in the month you may just see some burdock flowers. Weirdly, dogwood sometimes produces new blooms even as its leaves start to tint. This is also the month for ivy flowers: see September berries, fruits, nuts and seeds for more on this.

In hedgerows and other verge habitats, white trumpets of large and hedge bindweed sprawl across other vegetation all month, though in decreasing numbers as the month goes on. You can also still find some pink field bindweed on field or path edges, and just maybe some broad-leaved everlasting pea draped over hedgerows or fences. Honeysuckle and bittersweet (woody nightshade) can still be in bloom even when they already have ripe berries,

Another wayside climber – traveller's joy – may remain in flower in places into the first week, but is usually over by now. In the second half of September you may see its seeds taking on the fluffy appearance that gives it its winter name of old man’s beard, but otherwise this does not happen until October.

Russian vine is at its best right throughout September – a climber with a mass of white flowers, draped over a fence or hedgerow. The dangerously invasive Japanese knotweed, which has similar but much less showy flowers, also blooms this month, if it is allowed to. Sometimes clematis montana, a pink-flowered climber which drapes over suburban fences and which mainly flowers in spring, puts out a few new blooms in September.

Garden escapees

Flowers that are particularly associated with sheltered walls in gardens include yellow corydalis, ivy-leaved toadflax and mexican fleabane: all can be found right up to the end of the month. Red valerian may also still be flowering in the same place. Garden escapees that can survive near habitation include purple toadflax and monbretia, the latter with bright orange flowers, as well as periwinkle and French cranesbill

Note too the strange pink flowers of ivy-leaved cyclamen, which spring up widely on grassy village verges this month. Much more rarely - usually in parks - you come across autumn crocus. Soapwort, a showy pink flower that looks like a garden escapee but is in fact quite wild, may just be found earlier in the month. Rosemary (strictly a garden plant), sometimes decides to flower unseasonably in September.

River and seaside

By rivers himalayan balsam can survive all month and there is a much rarer orange balsam that occasionally crops up. Purple loosestrife can last into the first half of September, as can angelica, and in riverside meadows and other damp spots you can still find water mint till quite late in the month and gipsywort (another member of the mint family, but not aromatic) earlier in the month.

Other occasional plants of damp places include marsh woundwort and Russian comfrey, and in some years there is a revival of meadowsweet. Water forget-me-not may crop up on stream or pond edges, and you might just see water chickweed, looking very like normal chickweed but with much bigger flowers. Also on shallow ponds or lake edges, the cylindrical brown female flowers of bulrushes survive, covered with beige cottony fluff when they are seeding - but often, it seems, they are not. Just occasionally you can still come across white or yellow water lilies.

By the sea sea aster is at its best in the first half (for example on Mudeford Spit near Christchurch, Durlston Head near Swanage, on the sea walls near Faversham, along the Hamble River near Southampton, or on the west side of the river at Cuckmere Haven). It could be confused at a casual glance with michaelmas daisy (to which it is related), though its leaves are quite different. The large flowered maat-forming garden asters that grow on some seafronts seem to have a bit of a revival in early September.

Sea lavender in marshes and rock-sea lavender on cliffs and other stony places, are mainly over by now, but you may still see a few in flower. Other plants in saltmarshes include sea purslane, whose brown flowers are over now (though it is very hard to tell, as even when out they look fairly brown), and common glasswort, whose red stems make a striking sight.

Other specialists of the sea shore that may linger into September include red valerian, sea mayweed, pink-flowered sea rocket, and rock samphire (whose white flowers give way to green seeds), as well as the occasional flower on yellow-horned poppy, sea campion or silver ragwort. Fennel often looks like it is in flower, but if you look closely it is seeding. Its characteristic aromatic thread-like leaves have mostly died away by now, so it is anyway harder to identify.

Golden samphire lasts into early September, for example on Durlston Head near Swanage, on the sea walls near Faversham or Cliffe Pools in Kent, on Samphire Hoe near Dover or on the cliffs above Folkestone Warren, or by the River Adur at Shoreham-by-Sea. Perennial wall rocket (which seems particularly prevalent on the coast from Margate to Ramsgate) can last all month, and you may see the new flowering growth of black mustard (often growing by the desiccated remains of ones that flowered earlier in the summer) or - more rarely - sea radish.

As mentioned above, bristly oxtongue and hawkweed oxtongue are also fairly common seafront plants, and on shingle the occasional Oxford ragwort may crop up. The brown desiccated sprays of sea kale berries make a somewhat sombre sight on shingle beaches, and small new shoots of viper's bugloss sometimes produce a few blue flowers on shingle beaches or downland near the sea. Just occasionally you see lucerne growing on seafronts - for example at the eastern end of Eastbourne beach, or on the shingle at Whitstable.

Mats of spear-leaved orache can still be seen on shingle beaches early in September, though they are dying back by now (turning pink or red and then brown): sometimes you also see erect or semi-erect versions of the same plant in and around seafronts, again perhaps turning an attractive pink. Tamarisk - a common semi-wild shrub in seaside parks and gardens - can still have some pink flowers (they can even revive a bit in September), and a few purple flowers may remain on Duke of Argyll's tea plant, found in the scrub between Seaford and Newhaven, by the Adur in Shoreham-by-Sea, and in other coastal locations.

New shoots

New creeping thistle shoots are common in September, and sometimes they produce light-coloured new growth that looks a bit like iceberg lettuce. Ragwort and smooth sow thistle shoots can also be seen, some bursting into flower.

These are late flowering plants that will bloom (or not) before the winter and then die back, but surprisingly as the month goes on you can also see plants that are starting to grow now in order to flower next spring. Perhaps most noticeable are the new leaves of cow parsley (which really look like parsley at this time of year) and the new shoots of cleavers (goosegrass), both of which are seen on path and road verges.

By the sea (and also sometimes inland) the new leaves of alexanders emerge near the desiccated stalks of last year's flowers (identifiable by their black seeds). It was this winter foliage that prompted the Romans to introduced them to Britain as a pot herb. New shoots of yellow-horned poppy and silver ragwort can also be seen on shingle beaches.

Other plant shoots which will last the winter to flower next spring or summer include yarrow, dovesfoot cranesbill, clover and spear thistle in grassland; salad burnet on downland; garlic mustard and dandelion on verges; and the argentatum variety of yellow archangel in woods. Towards the end of the month, usually on verges near gardens, you see new forget-me-not shoots that will flower in April.

In contrast, the shoots you can see now of hogweed are killed off by the winter cold, and that seems to be true of most, but maybe not all, of the new herb robert and dock leaves. New ground elder shoots can appear from mid month on verges, but likewise seem to be scarce later in the winter.

With stinging nettles the picture is confused: many summer nettles are starting to die back and others that seeded later in the summer are only part grown, but there are also new shoots. Some of the last two categories seem to survive the winter, but some may be white deadnettle, which can still be in flower at this time - when young, the two species look almost identical.


September can be a good month for fungi in both woodland and grassy fields but this depends on the weather. They like cool nights and damp conditions, so the end of the month or October is often a better time to spot them.

Quite a common woodland fungus is the common earthball, and you can also see fly agaric, the classic red "toadstool" appearing near birch trees. Notice also large horizontal bracket fungi on trees trunks. A common grassland fungus is the attractive parasol, but what looks like an innocent field mushroom may in fact be a highly poisonous deathcap.

More September pages:

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