Nature Notes - Flora

by Howard Simpson

Banner image: Globe flowers on the shore of Ullswater © Janet Wedgwood

On the Lakeshore

On the lakeshore at Pooley Bridge, between the steamer pier and the Duke of Portland's boathouse, there are many Globeflowers (with large yellow flowers) in early May. (These are normally found in upland areas in E Cumbria). At the same place and time there are also some flowers of Martagon Lily - normally an alpine plant. I think the seeds of these have come down the lake from the area between Sharrow Bay garden and the Yacht Club as there are quite a number of lilies there (probably planted there many years ago but still surviving).

Pink Martagon Lily © Janet Wedgwood

Watermillock Churchyard

The churchyard at Watermillock Church has been managed to encourage wildflowers and quite a lot of Orchids can be found there - mostly Common Spotted and Twayblades. There are other wildflowers too.

At Aira Force there is quite a lot of Pink Purslane adjacent to the path from the Glade to the bottom of the waterfall. These occur in May/ June and are originally from N America.

Watermillock Churchyard © Jane Firth

Daffodils, Bluebells and Marsh Marigolds

Glencoyne lakeshore has (Wordsworth's) daffodils, but there are also a lot of Bluebells there in May. Bluebells also grow in profusion on the hillside approaching Lanty's Tarn from the North, in Glenamara Park and in some other ancient woodlands.

The Goldrill Beck is so named because its banks were once lined with Marsh Marigolds. There are still some there, in April.

Bluebells © Janet Wedgwood
Wild Daffodils © Janet Wedgwood
Marsh Marigold © Janet Wedgwood

Arctic-Alpine flora

On Helvellyn, on the rock faces behind Red Tarn, there are remnants of Arctic-alpine flora. Purple saxifrage is often seen appearing out of patches of snow. There are also Roseroot, Alpine Lady's Mantle, Mountain Avens and Britain's smallest tree - the Dwarf Willow. This is generally no more than 150mm tall and a lot of it can be found on St. Sunday Crag also.

Purple Saxifrage © Pete Barren

Grisedale and Dovedale

Adjacent to the paths up Grisedale or Dovedale it is possible to find Yellow Saxifrage and Starry Saxifrage in June or July. Also Bog Asphodel grows in July and this is an indicator of low Calcium levels in the soil (in Scotland it is known as 'bone-breaker'). There are also insectivorous plants - both Butterwort with its sticky leaves and attractive purple flower (in June) and Sundew with its leaves covered in sticky hairs (this has a small white flower). Later in July/ August there are flowers of Grass of Parnassus with its green-veined white petals.

Sundew © Janet Wedgwood
Bog Asphodel © Janet Wedgwood
Butterwort © Janet Wedgwood
Grass of Parnassus © Janet Wedgwood
Grass of Parnassus © Janet Wedgwood

Purple carpets of heather on the fellsides

Also in August there are prominent patches of Bell Heather turning a number of fellsides into purple carpets.

Scabious plants (both Field and Devil's-bit varieties) are present in many areas where there are drier, grassy places. They have bluish or bluish-purple flowers and appear from July to September.

Bell Heather © Anne Clarke


Brotherswater is known for its Water lilies which grow in the SE corner. There are both white and yellow varieties flowering in June or July.

Many of the woods around Ullswater and Brotherswater are classified as Temperate Rain Forests (rain on about two-thirds of the days in the year with a total of more than 1500mm). These are ancient oak woods and are rich in mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns. Of particular note is the forest on the West side of Brotherswater.


Juniper grows in many places around the area with good stands at Silver Bay, in Grisedale and the Glenridding valley. In recent years more have been planted. These are good for their berries and also make the best charcoal, formerly used in gunpowder.

Juniper © Anne Clarke
Juniper © Anne Clarke

by Howard Simpson

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