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Buttercup Family Ranunculaceae

The buttercup family are generally golden yellow and have five petals. Some members of the family are white and some have differing numbers of petals.The family includes spearworts and crowfoots as well as one or two surprises!

Poppy Family Papaveraceae

Poppies are generally large, open flowers with four petals but the family also includes fumitories which have small tubualr flowers. Although superficially quite different these two groups of flowers are quite closely related.

Goosefoot Family Amaranthaceae

The goosefoot family contains some of our most common weeds of cultivation, many having once been crops grown as cattle fodder and salad vegetables. They have rather plain, non-descript flowers. I have also included members of the small family called Urticaceae (nettles) here as they share some characteristics.

Campion Family Caryophyllaceae

Campions have five petals in an open, rosette. Some have deeply lobed petals which can make it appear they have ten. This family Includes stitchworts, chickweeds and spurreys.

Dock Family Polygonaceae

Docks are probably familiar to us all; big, untidy, leafy plants with seed-like flowers that are green or reddish. The dock family does have a number of species like that but it also includes sorrels and knotgrasses, The latter, although small, clearly show many of the same characteristics that the large species do.

St Johns Wort Family Hypericaceae

St John's worts are bright yellow, five petaled star shaped flowers. They range is size but all retain the primary floral characteristcs. There are several varities  found in the wild and some are grown in gardens and consequently have escaped into the wild.

Mallow Family Malvaceae

Mallows have five petals and come in various shades of pink ranging from a pale lilac though purple to almost blue. The flowers are generally an inch or so across and the plants themselves are bushy. There is a tendency to find mallows near to the sea but they also appear as weeds of cultivation in fields.

Violet Family Violaceae

Violets, and their cousins, the pansies, have five petals but arranged in a unique way, two at the top, three at the bottom, and this makes the family easy to identify but the flowers within the family are a bit more challenging. Most are purple or blue but some pansies have yellow in them. The sweet violet also comes in white!

Cabbage Family Crucifereae

The cabbage family are also known as brassicas. They have four petals in a cross shape hence the usual name of crucifers, cross-shaped. This a diverse family of manly yellow or white blooms but the four petals are diagnostic although the flowers may come in spikes, clusters or individually.

Heath Family Ericaceae

Yes, the heath family are strongly connected to heath and moorland habitats. Woody plants that can grow in conditions other plants could not even get a root hold in make supreme specialists of this habitat type and as Dorset has a considerable amount of heath most of these plants are commonly found here.

Primrose Family Primulaceae

The primrose family contains some familiar species that one would expect but there are some surprises too! Generally five-petalled flowers and quite small plants. Primroses are quite likely to hybridise with other members of the family and the garden primula is beginning to have a detrimental effect on wild populations so beware 'freaks'. (Note: Purple Loosestrife is actually a member of the Lythraceae family).

Stonecrop Family Crassulaceae

Stonecrops are an interesting set of flowers, not really woody nor fleshy but a cross between the two! Attractive star shaped flowers, some with five petals but not all. They get their name from their ability to thrive on the barest of soils on rocks and walls.  Some species are popular in gardens too.

Rose Family Rosaceae

Roses are one of the most common families of wild flowers and also one of the most diverse. The five-petal rosette is a characteristic but in some members of the family this is not clearly visible. The range of species is quite immense from hedgerow shrubs to small sprawling little flowers. Not all members of the family are immediately obvious as roses.

Pea Family Fabaceae

The form of the pea flower is unmistakable. The family is diverse though and contains vetches, clovers and many other familiar flowers. Most of the vetches are climbers using tendrils to cling to adjacent vegetation whilst clovers are low growing and free standing. A wide range of colours, sizes and styles but all with the distinctive pea flower and leaf.

Willowherb Family Onagraceae

A small family but with a couple of big species! Willowherbs are generally shades of purple or mauve, some are quite striking and obvious to identify whilst others are much more difficult being quite similar. Often favouring damp conditions but in a wide range on habitats you can potentially encounter a willowherb almost anywhere.

Spurge Family Euphorbiaceae

Spurges are generally quite a distinctive family. They almost give the appearance of not having flowers and technically they have not! The green 'petals' are called bracts and the stamens and anther are in the centre of these. Spurges need bare ground and some are vigorous weeds in gardens and hunted down whilst others are specifically grown as garden flowers!

Cranesbill Family Geraniaceae

Cranesbills have five petals but in some species these are deeply lobed and can give the appearance of having ten. Wild geraniums are often called cranesbills or storksbills because of the shape of the seed pod once the flowers die. Geraniums are, of course, popular garden flowers and so several cultivated species may be encountered in the wild.

Carrot Family Umbelliferae

The carrot family are also known as umbelliferae as their flower heads form umbrellas. There are many members that are quite similar in appearance and can present identification difficulties so habitat becomes important. Whilst many are white some are yellow but all are popular with small insects as a nectar source.

Gentian Family Gentianaceae

After orchids I would image gentians are the next most charismatic family of flowers. In Dorset we have some larger but scarce gentians which attract attention but the family includes the centaury group which have smaller flowers and are probably less exciting to the flower hunters.

Bindweed Family Convolvulaceae

Bindweeds do what they say on the label, they are 'weeds' that bind or entwine themselves around other plants, usually anticlockwise, to grow upwards towards the light. They have large white, or pale pink, trumpet flowers. Members of the family are easily spotted but identification between some may be tricky.

Borage Family Boraginaceae

A diverse family that include comfreys, forget-me-nots and buglosses. Usually blue, but not always, and with five petals although sometimes arranged in a tube rather than flat. There are usually several flowers per stem, all facing the same way.

Deadnettle Family Lamiaceae

The deadnettle family are distinctive, not just because of their trumpet shaped flowers, but because they have square stems. A number of familiar garden herbs fall into this category and many emit a strong scent from a crushed leaf. The family includes mints, bugles and woundworts.

Speedwell Family Veronicaceae

Speedwells are mainly blue flowers but some are purple. They have four petals with the top three being larger than the bottom, or lip, one. The family also includes the toadflax sub-family (snapdraggons) with their distinctive two up, three down structure and an opening moth.

Broomrape Family Orobanchaceae

The broomrape family is an interesting one. Some of the species are fully parasitic and get all their nutrients from their host plant and so have no chlorophyll whereas others are semi-parasitic and do have chlorophyll The parasitic plants generally have specific hosts whereas the semi-parasites can be more general and use a range of grasses.

Plantain Family Plantaginaceae

The plantain family is one of those groups of plants that do not seem to have a flower in the accepted sense, they are more like sedges perhaps? It is a small family with five species but so far I have only found four in Dorset but I know sea plantain occurs here.

Bellflower Family Campanulaceae

Bellfowers get their name from their bell shaped flowers - no surprise there then! Actually, not all the family have bell shaped flowers but most do. What they do have in common is that all of the family members have blue flowers. Being lovely plants one or two species that might be encountered are from gardens and not native.

Bedstraw Family Rubiaceae

Whilst a diverse family of plants they all have, in one form or another, clusters of four-petalled flowers. They come in all shapes and sizes ans some can be difficult to tell apart but consideration of the habitat in which it was seen will help narrow down the possibilities.

Valerian Family Valerianaceae

Valerians are attractive plants with clusters of tiny flowers which are very popular with insects. There are three species of Valerian and they are joined by some much smaller cousins, the corn salads.

Teasel Family Dipsacaceae

Teasels are very distinctive plants seemingly having no flowers, just a prickly seed head. The family also contains, however, the scabious flowers, very different in many ways from the conventional teasel appearance; they have blue compound flower heads.

Onion Family Alliaceae

Wild onions, leeks and garlics plus a couple of surprises all fall within the Alliaceae. Usually a single stem supports the cluster of flowers at the top. In onions and leeks this tends to be a globe whereas in leeks they are a collection of larger flowers  all falling downwards to one side. Most have the strong smell associated with culinary versions.

Asparagus Family Asparagaceae

A real mixed bag of species but all members of the same family. Some may look as though they would be more at home in other families, the bluebell in the bellflowers for example. Some of the family are 'normal' fleshy species whilst others are woody. Be prepared for the unexpected!

Daisy Family Compositae

The daisy family is certainly diverse. Its members include dandelions, hawkweeds and thistles and a range of less obvious species. They are known as compositae because they have complex flower structures; some a central cluster with florest around it and other just a cluster of thin, even thread-like, petals.

Orchid Family Orchidaceae

Orchids are usually striking flowers and much sought after by enthusiasts. They generally produce spikes of flowers and in some species they are in tight clusters whereas in other species they are more spread out. Some are fairly big, bold plants, others insignificant and easily overlooked. A diverse family!