Wildflowers in the forest
After the long, dark winter months, the first blooms of spring are a welcome sight. As forest floors and meadows burst into life, there’s plenty of colours and foraging opportunities to enjoy as we head towards Easter.
From snowdrops and bluebells to tasty ingredients such as wild garlic and chickweed there’s plenty to discover, so read on to find out what to spot in the forest this spring!
Foraging involves directly picking plants found outdoors, such as in woodlands, rather than buying them from a shop. Different foods are ready to eat depending on what season it is, but there’s usually something delicious to pick, no matter what month it is.
Wild garlic can be found from late winter until the end of spring, and both the flowers and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. You’ll most likely smell wild garlic before you see it – the leafy plant produces a fragrant smell and is a great addition to homemade pestos, soups and salads.
You can also get your hands on other fresh and free ingredients such as chickweed, dandelion and nettles. Make sure to always be 100% sure of what you’re eating, and prepare everything properly before consumption. Also make sure to only take what you need - leave plenty for the wildlife.
The first flowers to mark the beginning of spring are snowdrops, which tend to emerge when winter is in its final flurry as warmer weather paves the way for spring. The scientific name for these pretty white flowers, Galanthus, means milk flower.
While you can see snowdrops in many places, have a look at some of our favourite places to get started, such as Cally Woods in Galloway Forest Park. If you’re making a special trip specifically to see snowdrops, it may be worth checking ahead with the local office to check they’re out in bloom.
Wildflower meadows are some of the most loved and iconic symbols of the British countryside. However, over the last 75 years, 97% of them have been lost. In an effort to reverse the trend, Prince Charles called for the creation of new wildflower meadows – at least one in every county – to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.
Two of our meadows have already been recognised as Coronation Meadows, both with outstanding and rare examples of species-rich lowland grassland.
Samhairidh, Morvern, Lochaber, Highlands
The name is Gaelic for sorrel-pasture but you won’t only find sorrel there. We’ve identified 83 species of flowering plant, including typical meadow species such as northern marsh orchid, ox-eye daisy and yellow rattle.
Yair Haugh, Tweed Valley, Selkirkshire in the Scottish Borders
Ragged robin, devil’s-bit scabious and northern hawk’s-beard are just some of the 60-plus species found in this important wet meadow habitat.
Places to visit
Need some inspiration on your next trip out to spot wildflowers this spring? Here are some of our favourite places to visit:
Glenbranter, Argyll Forest Park
One of the jewels of Argyll Forest Park, Glenbranter has trails from a short stroll among ancient oaks to a challenging all-day bike ride. Head up to the Waterfall Trail, a dramatic route up the Allt Robuic gorge which hosts a variety of spring wildflowers including bluebells, snowdrops, crocuses and primrose. You might even spot some wild garlic to pick! The myriad of shades of green in the glen is enhanced by these intermittent bursts of colour.
Barnaline, Loch Awe
A rejuvenating springtime walk, Dalavich Oakwoods are an ideal place to soak up spring in all its glory. There are over 90 different species of mosses and liverworts and varied plant species including bluebells and wood anemone.
You might be lucky enough to see Red squirrels or Pied flycatchers as you walk past the sparkling stream. Spring brings this woodland into a burst of blue and lime green as nature wakes up on the sides of Loch Awe.
Feshiebridge, Cairngorms National Park
Feshiebridge is part of a beautiful, peaceful forest that washes against the great bulk of the Cairngorm mountains. There are beautiful trails along the wide grassy bank of the River Feshie, perfect for a picnic, and some intriguing sculptures to discover among the trees. The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail is the perfect place to see beautiful white snowdrops carpeting the forest floor.
Garscadden Wood, near Glasgow
Garscadden Woods are rich in wildlife, with a wonderful variety of trees, including some majestic old oaks and over 200 species of plants. Known locally as Bluebell Wood, the colourful flowers spring up in force as winter comes to a close, and in summer purple hairstreak butterflies flutter in the sunny glades.
The western part of the wood, reached from Ladyloan Avenue, is a much younger woodland with oak, ash, birch, rowan, fruit trees and lovely old hawthorn hedges. Look out for colourful wildflowers in the high meadow there in summer.
Glenmore Visitor Centre, Glenmore Forest Park
At the heart of the Forest Park, the visitor centre is an ideal place to start your visit. Find out more about this wonderful forest, choose from a range of trails and pick up some delicious treats in the café.
The upper section of the Ryvoan Trail, which starts at the visitor centre, is a great place to see primroses and wood anemones coming into bloom as April begins. You can also visit the enchanting An Lochan Uaine (The Green Lochan) watched over by An Sidhean (The Fairies' Hill), then wind back through the ancient pine and birch forest above.
River Oich, near Fort Augustus
Midway between Fort William and Inverness lies the picturesque Loch Oich, a perfect location for picnics and wandering through the towering spruce and Scots pine. There are plenty of colourful sights to see along the River Oich Trail, which is lined with primroses, violets, stitchwort, pignut and bluebells.
Mark Hill, Dumfries
Head to the coast and discover a lovely trail through coastal woodland to the modest summit of Mark Hill, with its superb views over Kippford Bay and across the Solway. The woodland and meadows attract a host of birds, reptiles, butterflies and other insects, especially in early summer when the wild flowers are in bloom.