Since the middle of last year I’ve been volunteering with Natural England on the Shifting Sands project. During the few months I have been doing my work experience, David (the Keystone Species officer) has been a fantastic (and patient) teacher of flora. My pleasure at correctly identifying plants I previously didn’t know is great; so I shall share details of a few of my new learned favourites.


Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)

 Photo: Neil Wyatt, The Wildlife Trusts

This plant is great to identify from the leaves as they are narrow, dark-green and set in whorls of 8-12 around the stem.  Sadly I missed flowering season this year but look forward to seeing this fabulous froth of yellow next summer! It grows on short, grazed, unimproved grassland – so perfect for the Brecks.


Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

 Photo: David Nicholls,

I find I am able to identify this plant because of the two pointed lobes at the base of the leaf.  Its flowers are small and reddish in colour at the end of long, branched spikes (they look a bit like dock flowers).  It is found in short, moderately grazed or un-grazed areas enjoying quite a range of soil types from dry to damp and neutral to acidic.


Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

 Photo: Graham Calow,

When I discovered this plant I was really excited as for me it is really easy to identify – when I turned the leaf on its side, to my eye, it looked like a fish! I know it has absolutely nothing to do with fish and I get very funny looks whenever I explain this to someone. As I’ve pointed out the basal lobes point outwards on the Sheep’s Sorrel and the leaves are narrower than the Common Sorrel.  It likes to grow on heavily grazed land which is dry, thin and acidic.


It’s been fantastic starting to learn some basic plant identification, and I’m look forward to learning more in the New Year.



Shifting Sands Volunteer.



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