Wildflowers of North Devon

North Devon is a great place to spot wildflowers, especially in the spring. Discover more about some of the flowers that grow here and the best places to see them. Please do not pick or eat any part of a plant unless you are with someone experienced in their usage.

Wander through wildflowers on our self-led walking trails through the woodlands of Watersmeet and Heddon Valley this May. Pick up your trail map from the shop any time between 11am and 3.30pm, or click to download before you come. Free, no booking needed.

Watersmeet wildflower trail map (PDF / 1.4MB) download

Heddon Valley wildflower trail map (PDF / 1.4MB) download

A blanket of primroses at Hilly Mouth, near Woolacombe
Primroses Hilly Mouth Woolacombe
A blanket of primroses at Hilly Mouth, near Woolacombe

1. Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)

This cheerful yellow flower has an orange centre, and can often be seen in distinctive clumps on the woodland floor.

The primrose was once used in the treatment of aches and pains, in particular it was used to alleviate the pain of rheumatism. Primrose tea was also used to treat nervous hysteria however, as it also caused the patient to vomit. We are not quite sure how long the benefits would have lasted.

Best time to see: January to May

Best place to see in North Devon: Hilly Mouth, near Lee

Wood Sorrel
Wood Sorrel Heddon Valley
Wood Sorrel

2. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella)

These delicate white flowers have tiny purple veins, and often grow in clumps in shady hedgerows or on the woodland floor.

The wood sorrel leaf has an acidic citrusy taste that some people like to use in salads.
It is said to ‘produce a strong stomach, remove obstructions and stop vomiting’. So, the perfect antidote to too much Primrose tea then.

Best time to see: April to May

Best place to see in North Devon: The woodland near Watersmeet

Bluebells cover Beckland Woods, near Brownsham
Bluebells Beckland Wood Brownsham
Bluebells cover Beckland Woods, near Brownsham

3. Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

The beautiful bluebell is a sure sign that spring is here. Covering the woodland floor in a sea of vibrant blue they are a spectacular site. Sadly the native species is being threatened by the invasive Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) which are bigger and paler in colour.

In folklore it is said that anyone who hears a bluebell ring will soon die! Fields of bluebells are also often associated with fairy enchantments.

Best time to see: mid-April to late-May

Best place to see in North Devon: Beckland Woods, near Brownsham, Peppercombe to Bucks Mills coast path, and Barton Wood, near Watersmeet

Herb robert grows amongst chives and wild flowers
NTIL86777 Herb Robert Heddon Valley
Herb robert grows amongst chives and wild flowers

4. Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)

Herb Robert can be found in variety of habitats including woodland, hedgerows and rocky, exposed areas.

Traditionally used to strengthen the immune system some people would have us believe this plant is a cure for almost any ailment and they may have a point. Our Lead Ranger swears Herb Robert tea cures mouth ulcers.

Best time to see: May to September

Best place to see in North Devon: Heddon Valley

Red Campion growing wild
NTIL 1056230 Red Campion Heddon Valley
Red Campion growing wild

5. Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Just as the bluebells finish flowering, this distinctive rose-red plant comes into bloom.

The root of Red Campion was once used to create soap for washing clothes. You will be glad to hear there are no reasons we know of why anyone would want to eat this plant.

Best time to see: May to September

Best place to see in North Devon: Heddon Valley

The distinctive violet-blue Spring Squill at Baggy Point
Spring Squill Baggy Point
The distinctive violet-blue Spring Squill at Baggy Point

6. Spring Squill (Scilla verna)

This distinctive violet-blue plant likes wild and windy habitats, such as the coasal cliffs of North Devon. It is fairly rare, and we're lucky to have lots at Baggy Point near Croyde.

Spring Squill is also cultivated as an ornamental for its attractive display of delicate flowers.

Best time to see: April to May

Best place to see: Baggy Point, Croyde

A patch of celandine on the woodland floor
NTIL 1196532 Celandine Heddon Valley
A patch of celandine on the woodland floor

7. Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

This cheeful buttercup yellow flower likes damp hedgerows and woodland.

This plant takes its name from the Greek word for the Swallow, chelidon, as it comes into flower when the swallows arrive in April and blooms until they return to Africa in the Autumn.
Once used as a diuretic and purgative we think this plant would only have been consumed close to home.

Best time to see: late February to May

Best place to see in North Devon: Heddon Valley

Close up of a common foxglove
NTIL 983817 Foxglove Heddon Valley
Close up of a common foxglove

8. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

This highly poisonous plant has attractive pink-purple flowers.

Used as a medicine throughout the ages for the treatment of swelling, bruises and ulcers this plant is now grown commercially for the heart drug digitalis.

It takes its name from the Saxon ‘foxes glofa’ which translates to the ‘the glove of the fox’. There is a traditional story that says wicked fairies gave the fox the flower head to put on his feet so he could sneak up on peoples chickens.

Best time to see: June to September

Best place to see in North Devon: Brownsham

A distinctive dog violet
NTIL 1196534 Dog Violet Heddon Valley
A distinctive dog violet

9. Dog Violet

Dog violets have flowers like pansies, with heart shaped leaves. Unlike it's cousin, the sweet violet, the common dog violet has no scent. It likes many different habitats including woodland, grassland, hedgerows, heaths and pasture.

Best time to see: April to June

Best place to see in North Devon: Woolacombe dunes

A peacock butterfly lands on meadowsweet
NTIL 1196499 Meadowsweet Peacock Butterfly Heddon Valley
A peacock butterfly lands on meadowsweet

10. Meadowsweet (Spiraea ulmaria)

One of the later flowering plants in the year it has a very pleasant smell and was used in far-gone days strewn on the floor of cottages to help disguise unpleasant odours, a kind of Elizabethan air freshener. It was also used by some as a medicine to bring about sweating and was said to create a ‘merry heart’ if infused with wine.  . . .No real surprises there then.

Best time to see: June to September

Best place to see in North Devon: Heddon Valley

Tormentil amongst Marsh Cinquefoil
NTIL 1124862 Tormentil Heddon Valley
Tormentil amongst Marsh Cinquefoil

11. Tormentil (Potentilla Tormentilla)

This plant derives its name from the Latin ‘tormentum’ which translate to ‘torment’ and so it is said to torment ill from the body. It was used to treat an upset stomach and toothache.
From ‘the Dramatic Works of Beaumont and Fletcher ‘s ‘The Shepherdess,  we read ’this  tormentil, whose virtue is to part all deadly killing poisons from the heart’.

Best time to see: May to September

Best place to see in North Devon: Watersmeet