What Flowers might you find in a hedge?

| Planting | Trees



Many of the following flowers are also found on grassland, as well as on the hedge bank. The hedge bank is included, as in intensively areas the bank it is the last repository of many flowers due to fertiliser, pesticide and insecticide use.


Aliens – introduced non-native plants such as alexanders and montbretia

Calyx – the outer floral envelope

Sepal – a leaf of the calyx, exactly below the petals

The following is an alphabetical listing of flowers that you may find in an Irish hedgerow!

ALEXANDERS (aliens) .Smyrnium olusatrum

Yellowish-greenish flowers, a member of the carrot family, common on roadsides in Fingal.

BIRD’SFOOT TREFOIL Lotus corniculatus 10-40cm high

It has flowers in stalked heads and each leaf has three tiny leaves (leaflets) but then an extra pair of leaflets close to the stem. The seedpods are arranged like the toes of a bird’s foot. Trefoil means three-leaved.

BUSH VETCH (Vicia sepium)

It is 30-100cm high and climbs by branched tendrils growing from the tips of the leaves. It has up to six blooms on each flower-head and 5-9 pairs of tiny leaves. With its tendrils it can climb over other plants, covering them with short spikes of pea-like flowers. Bumbles bees love the nectar

CLEAVERS Galium aparine 15-120 cm

A tall bright green plant called cleavers because the hooked hairs on the fruit stick or cleave to clothes and animal hair. Geese love it and it is also called goose-grass. Hedge bedstraw is a trailing plant with smoother stems.

COW PARSLEY Anthriscus sylvestris 60-10 cm high

These massed flowers cover roadsides beside hedges in spring. The branches of flower-heads are hairless. It is also called Queen Anne’s lace. Its leaves have few hairs and unspotted stems. Its fruit is long, smooth and black. See also Rough chervil and Hogweed which also have umbrella-shaped heads of flowers.


A wild perennial survives now on some hedge banks but formerly on cow pastures. They thrive on lime soil. The yellow flowers with sweet smell grow in clusters and droop. Traditionally you made wine with the flowers.

DOG VIOLET (Violet riviniana)

Seen in hedges but also in woods and dry grassland. The flowers open at the top of leafy stems. Leaves are heart-shaped and have hairless stalks. The name dog refers to the plant having no scent. It grows from 2.5 to 20 cm.

DAISY Bellis perennis 20-60 cm high

Lovely flower with pungent smell. Has a flat rosette of leaves, spreading too close to the ground for animals or mowers to cut. Its leaves are spoon-shaped, slightly toothed.

DANDELION Taraxacum officinale

The flower heads are composed of up to 200 petals which close when the weather is dull or at night. The leaves are like lion’s teeth ‘dent de lion’ in French. The white haired fruits are like clocks and children play the game ‘He loves me, he loves me not.’as they blow them away.

FIELD SCABIOUS Knautia arvensis

Grows from 25-100 cm. It has lots of tiny lilac flowers in the flower-head and a button-like flower -head.. It has hairy leaves undivided at the plant base but more and more divided going upwards. The flower heads are lilac-blue and the outer flowers are larger than the inner ones. The name comes from the famed power of the plant to cure skin diseases like scabies. Caterpillars of several butterflies and moths love the dull green leaves


There used to be a greater variety in the Fingal area on many hedge banks but due to intensive agriculture, the banks have been taken over to a great extent by rye grass.

QUAKING GRASS Briza media 20-50 cm high

It has pyramid-shaped flower-heads and shiny purplish spikelets. The spikelets are flat and oval, hung delicately on thin stalks. This grass is of little use as fodder a it lacks foliage. Found on dry grassy hedge banks as well as on grassland. It really trembles in the wind, rather than quaking!

SWEET VERNAL GRASS Anthoxanthum odoratum 20-100cm

It gives out the attractive smell of new-mown hay but is no longer grown for fodder as the chemical called coumarin producing the smell gives grass a bitter taste. The flower-head is like a spike with many short branches, turning from green to lilac to yellow. The leaf sheaths or holders are bearded at the top.

FALSE OAT-GRASS Arrhenatherum elatius 50-152cm

The flower-bearing spikelets of this grass are like those on the true oat. But they stand erect on their stems rather than hanging down as those of oats do. The spikelets make up a sword-shaped green or purplish flower-head with densely clustered branches. The leaves are wide, flat and rough with smooth stems.

COCK’S FOOT Dactylis glomerata 15-137cm

The branching, one-sided flower-heads of this grass look like a cock’s foot. It is used as a pasture and hay grass although it is tough and coarse. The green or purplish spikelets of 2 to 5 flowers are in oval clusters, the lowest on a long stalk at right angles to the stem. It has few stems.

GREATER STITCHWORT Stellaria holostea 15-60 cm high

It has big star-like flowers seen in spring. The petals are split halfway up and are longer than the sepals. Its leaves are rough-edged and arranged in opposite pairs. The leaves have no stalk and are narrow and pointed.

HARDHEADS Centaurea nigra 30-60 cm

A grassland plant but found on roadsides in arable areas. It is like a thistle with no prickles and gets its name from the knob-like flower-heads. It has a hairy grooved stem and long, stalked leaves near the base, which can be toothed. Also called knapweed.

HERB ROBERT (Geranium robertianum)

This plant has leaves with 3-5 lobes and the stems branch out from the base. In autumn the separate fern-like leaves and hairy stems go bright red, that is why its Latin name comes from ruber, as in ruby redder it may get its name from Robert, the Duke of Normandy. The leaves smell like geranium when pressed together.

HOGWEED Heracleum sphondylium. A member of the carrot family, Umbelliferae which borders many roads.


LESSER CELANDINE Ranunculus ficaria 6-15 cm high

One of the first spring flowers to appear in damp banks near hedges. Each flower can have up to 12 petals which fade to white The poet Wordsworth described it as ‘shining bright as the sun himself’ It has heart -shaped leaves on long stalks.

MEADOWSWEET Pilipendula ulmaria 60-120 mm high

It smells very sweet and is found on many hedge banks. In medieval times the flowers were often scattered among the rushes on the floors of tower houses to create a nice smell. The plant has dense clusters of blossom at the end of tall, hairless, branching stems. The name comes from mede-sweete, given to it by the Normans who used it to flavour their honeyed wine, as consumed in Bunratty in Co. Clare.


OXE-EYE DAISY Leucanthemium vulgare 20-60 cm

They have long white outer florets and sparsely hairy unbranched stems with deeply divided leaves. Lovers used play ‘he loves me, he loves me not ‘with them.

PRIMROSE (Primula vulgaris)

Grows up to 15 cm. It has single flowers on hairy stalks. The leaves are hairless above and hairy below and tapering gradually to the base. The flowers grow from the centre of a bunch of wrinkled, toothed leaves Primroses produce two kinds of flower and seeds are produced only when pollen is transferred from one to the other and that is why it does not always prosper when transferred from the wild to your garden.

QUEENS ANNS LACE Anthriscus sylvestris. See cow parsley

RIBWORT PLANTAIN Plantago lanceolata (7.5-45 cm)

The dark, long flower-head at the tip of a furrowed (with lines on it) stem makes it easy to identify. The flowers have 4 white sepals, each with a brown central point and 4 brownish petals. The long stamens are either white or pale yellow. Greater plantain has broad, nearly hairless leaves with pale green flower-heads.

ROSE-BAY WILLOW HERB OR FIREWEED Chamaeneria angustifolium (alien)

Common plant on waste ground and hedge banks. A tall perennial. The flowers grow loosely in a spike. The leaves are pointed and willow-like and grow alternately up the main stem. It has only recently colonised hedge banks. It thrives on ground where there has been fire.

ROUGH CHERVIL Chaerophyllum temulentum 30-90 cm

It is a summer plant and has purple-spotted stem which is also coarsely hairy. It has a conspicuous swelling where the leaf stalks join the stem. The flower-head is umbrella shaped and the stems are also upright and purple-spotted.

STINGING NETTLE urtica urens(annual)

There is also the perennial nettle called urtica dioica. Dioica means it is either male or female It has at least 27 different species of insects and is great for the tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies.

THISTLE Cirsium arvense 30-152 cm

The national emblem of Scotland. It has a sweet musky odour attracting butterflies but a strong root system which farmers do not like. The plants are either male or female so both must grow beside each other for pollination. The flowers are purple and sit on spiny bracts (like holders). The leaves are very prickly.

WHITE DEAD NETTLE Lamium album 20-60 cm

Its large, open-mouthed flowers attract nectar-seeking bumblebees in summer. The flowers are in a bunch round the square hairy stems, which grow in big clumps. Its toothed, heart-shaped leaves are like the stinging nettle but does not sting, as they are hairless.

WILD STRAWBERRY Fragaria vesca 5-30 cm high

Small but well flavoured. Its seeds are scattered over the surface of the fruit. The plant has clusters of bright green trefoil (three-leaved) leaves, hairy underneath. The flowers are white and are on upright stalks with overlapping or touching petals.


It is 30-60 CM high and called after St Benedict and in the Middle Ages was used to ward off evil spirits. It is a short plant, with downy stems and deeply divided leaves with a large lobed tiny leaf at the end. The flowers are small and widely spread, with a long, hooked hairy style, which also can be seen on the fruit.

YARROW Achillea millefolium 15-45 cm high

The Greek warrior-hero Achilles was supposed to have used yarrow to cleanse and heal wounds made by iron weapons. It thrives on banks because of its deep, water-gathering roots. It has broad, flat flower-heads and many dark green feathery leaves (millefolium means many leaved).




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