Wildflowers to spot in February

The first wildflowers lift our spirits with their promise of spring. They also provide vital sources of nectar and pollen for the emerging bees and butterflies, tempted out by late winter sun – here's nine early bloomers

Closeup of glowing springtime flowers Star of Bethlehem

1. Lesser celandine

Yellow Lesser Celandine flower in English countryside with space for copy or text.
Also known as pilewort ©Getty

Ficaria verna

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Grows from a tuber that responds quickly to the first hint of spring. The starry yellow flowers are a cheerful sight in hedgebanks and carpet woodland edges. 

2. Alexanders

Common fly feeding on small insect in order Diptera, sitting on Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)
Common fly feeding on Alexanders ©Getty

Smyrnium olusatrum 

Its green umbels have a musty smell that attracts fly pollinators. A former herb, it fell from favour after celery was introduced. It’s now naturalised near the coast.

3. Wood sorrell

Common Wood Sorrel, Oxalis acetosella, flowers macro with leaves defocused, selective focus, shallow DOF
The leaves of wood sorrel are edible ©Getty

Oxalis acetosella

Its nodding flowers may be marked with pink veins and yellow spots at their base. Wood sorrel often grows over decaying branches on the woodland floor. 

4. Butterbur

Short to tall, hairy patch-forming perennial. Leaves rounded-heart-shaped, grey-hairy beneath, appearing after the flowers and often very large, irregularly toothed. Flower heads pale reddish-violet, unscented, the male larger 7-12mm, the female 3-6mm, borne in cone-shaped panicles.
Butterbur has unscented white-pink flowers ©Getty

Petasites hybridus

Underground rhizomes produce conical pink inflorescences that erupt through riverbank soil before the leaves expand. It has separate male and female plants.

5. Butcher’s broom 

Butcher's Broom (Ruscus Aculeatus)
Butcher’s broom is an evergreen shrub ©Getty

Ruscus aculeatus  

This evergreen of dry woodlands used to be bound to make brooms. Star-shaped flowers are carried in leaf-like structures that are really flattened stem branches.

6. Yellow star of Bethlehem 

Closeup of glowing springtime flowers Star of Bethlehem
The yellow star of Bethlehem is a member of the family Liliaceae ©Getty

Gagea lutea

Green-backed petals open to reveal umbels of yellow blooms that are easily overlooked among the lesser celandines. It is locally common on limestone soils.

7. Sweet violet

Sweet20violet-1051301
Sweet violet is also commonly known as wood violet ©Getty

Viola odorata

The only native violet that’s fragrant, this is always the first to flower. Creeping stolons root at their tip, so old plants form large patches in hedgebanks. 

8. Barren strawberry

geograph-1243653-by-ceridwen-e60cedb
Look for hairy, blue-green leaves ©Ceridwen, Geograph

Potentilla sterilis 

Similar to wild strawberry, this blooms earlier and its petals don’t touch one another. Fruits are dry and inedible. It is very common on woodland edges.

9. Spurge Laurel

geograph-5289399-by-Patrick-Roper-8bc8a04
Spurge Laurel in flower ©Patrick Roper, Geograph

Daphne laureola

Clusters of scented green flowers on this evergreen shrub attract the first bees and brimstone butterflies. Find it in calcareous soils, in hedge banks and beech woods.

Learn more with our guide to Britain’s top native wildflowers.

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Main image ©Getty