Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
What is Flowering : May
lots of new species flowering this month, and some of the ones that flowered in the late winter have already set their seeds...
Yellow wildflowers in the Western Isles in May
At the start of the month common meadow buttercup. In the ditches, streams and boggy meadows the golden yellow marsh marigolds are just starting to flower. Lesser celandine flowers throughout May, making distinctive patches of dark green heart-shaped leaves dotted with lemon-yellow flowers. Another lemon-yellow member of the buttercup family which begins flowering is lesser spearwort, this one mostly grows semi-submerged in shallow ditches. The latin name for the buttercup family is Ranunculae - Ranunculus is Latin for "little frog" which hints at their favorite habitat..
The dandelions being one of the first plants to flower in the year, are one of the first plants to be seeding, and attract goldfinches and twites and redpoll (good reason to leave them be!) A related plant autumn hawkbit it starts flowering at the end of the month.
A few more wild primroses about, 2008 looks like a good year for primroses. (All the wild plants have cycles of good years and poor years just as the cultivated ones do).
Groundsel is already seeding in cultivated areas and wasteground, if you do garden, best not let it seed! Pineapple weed is also flowering, (this is the one that grows on wasteland and looks a bit like a mayweed (daisy) without petals.
Sea plantain is flowering in salty places - that includes in crevices of rocks and cliffs by the sea, and in broad strips along the roadside, when roads are salted against ice, the salt is washed off, forming a high-salt habitat.
Tormentil is just coming into flower, as is the silverweed.
Changing forget me-not comes into flower mid-May, so called because the flowers start off yellow then turn blue.
The gorse will be past it's peak by the end of the month, and at that time the very first flowers of the yellow flag iris will open. Redshank and corncrake like to nest in amongst the flag's foliage, so listen out for the call of the corncrake.
Bird's foot trefoil is starting to flower now.
The daffodils will end soon.
Blue or Purplish wildflowers in the Western Isles in May
Lots of the common dog violets come out in May, with fewer toward the end of the month. The wild pansy, a related species begins to flower.
The wild hyacinth is also flowering, it is better known as the (English) bluebell.
Germander speedwell has been in flower for a few weeks, and now thyme-leaved speedwell is in flower. Heath speedwell flowers at the end of May.
Heath milkwort is flowering on the moor (comes in pink and white too). Later in the year we will see the larger common milkwort flower on the machair.
Water forget-me-not is flowering at the water's edge, it has larger flowers than the field forget-me-not and flowers a little earlier. Some of the early flowering types of garden forget-me-not derived from this species.
The first common butterwort are flowering. The flowers look like violets at a glance, (one of it's name is bog-violet) this yellowish-green star-shaped plant is insectivorous so the midges are soon on their way...
White wildfowers in the Western Isles in May
The daisy is forming carpets but as the song goes "You ain't seen nothing yet..." The grass has vigour now and the daises against the lush green area a joy!
With it's tiny white flowers that pop seeds when touched the hairy bitter cress is already a garden menace as the seeds it popped earlier have now germinated...
Pearlwort is fast covering freshly cultivated ground, and also to be found in patches of bare soil.
Common scurvy grass is growing along the shoreline. (Plant has white flowers smaller than a little finger-nail and heart-shaped dark green leaves). Places where there is a patch which is really vigorous and green are likely to be places where the otter or mink mark their territories.
Also now the bogbean has started to flower in the freshwater lochs and white campion is going to flower any day. This is Frank Stark's close-up of the bogbean flower which shows it's the delicate and intricate construction.
Ribwort plantain is flowering. Traditionally a cough remedy was made from plantain flowers.
Shepherd's purse and some of the chickweeds like sticky mouse-ear are flowering.
Mid-May and the mountain everlasting is out.
Wild strawberry will flower.
Mid-May and the sea sandwort is in flower. Sea sandwort usually grows on the pebble beach or in sand above the strand-line forming green mats and has small pinkish-white flowers.
End of the month and the Nettles will be in flower - too late now for nettle soup! Heath bedstraw also started to flower, so did eyebright.
During May the horsetail is also in flower. Horsetail is sometimes called a living fossil. About 350 million years ago (Devonian period), the horsetails did well. They grew to heights of up to 40 feet or more and resembled skinny, branchless pine trees, growing as dense as a forest.
Pink wildfowers in the Western Isles in May
Lousewort is in flower on the wet moorland, and the thrift is just starting in the salty places.
Cuckooflower is just starting to get going (As is the cuckoo to the dismay of the meadow pipits).
lots of rhododendrons in the Stornoway Castle grounds are now in flower, "Mad Honey" ?
Red campion always does well, seedlings are already popping up at a good distance from the parent plants which are already flowering and are already getting ready to seed again. Not one to include in the flower garden if you like control.
Ragged robin has started flowering, a pink flower of old damp meadows.
The fuschias are flowering, these are garden escapes which do very well in the Western Isles. Red valerian whose buds are now bursting is also an introduced plant.
By the very end of May the first of the sorrel will have flowered.
Even with the long list of wildflowers above, at the close of May the machair still looks fairly bare, with very short growth and few flowers. Each week that passes can make a huge difference now, as we head toward the Summer Solstice the hours of daylight increase and the pace of growth picks up to an astounding rate...
The corncrake is calling (up to 20,000 times a night). Some of the peats are already dry and in piles awaiting the tractor and barrow. The midges have not yet "grown their teeth".
Thank-you Frank, Ela and Debbie, for your contributions to this page last year. Flower sightings are welcomed...
Photography © Frank Stark
Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
Frank's web site of his nature photography