CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Hertfordshire’s plant hunters

PUBLISHED: 12:53 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:53 24 March 2014

Wild flowers in an arable field near Clothall

Wild flowers in an arable field near Clothall


There is an abundance of native plants in the county and it’s the job of the Herts Flora Group to identify and record them. Philippa Pearson talks to the group’s founder, Trevor James, about the ongoing challenge. Photos by Brian Sawford

‘I’ve always been fascinated by wild plants,’ says botanist Trevor James, who grew up in south Hertfordshire and now lives in Ashwell. 
‘When I was growing up, I was always pointing out wildflowers to my father in our lawn, which was slightly irritating I expect, but then our garden was originally heathland, which was cultivated for agriculture before the houses were built. We consequently had some rather rare species of wild flowers growing in our lawn.’

Trevor’s early fascination with the natural world continued and at 16 he joined the Hertfordshire branch of the British Naturalists’ Association, a group he now chairs. He was a founder member in 1963 of what is now the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and went on to be a plant recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

Trevor also founded the Herts Flora Group, as a sub-group of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society, which promotes the study and recording of fauna and flora in the county. An informal organisation, the flora group is open to anyone who has an interest in the county’s wild plants. Events take place throughout the year, including field meetings to survey and record groups of plant species at locations in the county. Other like-minded organisations are involved with the events, and help and advice is always available to those new to plant recording or surveying.

‘Wildflowers are fascinating,’ 
Trevor enthuses. ‘They tell us about their environment and what their origins were.’


Flora of Hertfordshire.

Work on a book of Hertfordshire plants started in 1987 when Trevor, working as a museum curator in the north of the county, was asked by the Botanical Society of the British Isles if he would like to update the 1967 guide to flora in the county. With his plant recorder skills and affection for the county he knows intimately, Trevor took the challenge on.

The book was a mammoth challenge for the group, but in 2009 an updated plant guide for the county entitled Flora of Hertfordshire was published. The book records more than 2,000 species of plants found in the county and is the culmination of 22 years’ work surveying and recording wild flower plants. The book also covers Hertfordshire’s geology, soils and climate and the changing flora in the county, including alien plants.


Rare flowers.

Special flowers in the county include the pasque flower pulsatilla vulgaris – Hertfordshire’s county flower. During late March to early April, the slopes of Therfield Heath near Royston are vibrant with its purple trumpets. The plant thrives in chalk grassland but many of these ancient habitats in Britain have declined and disappeared. Therfield is now one of only five sites left in the UK where the flower survives and around 60,000 plants have been recorded on the heath in a good year.

The group recently made an important discovery – a plant growing only in Hertfordshire.

The small lesser-tufted sedge is a grass-like plant that grows in boggy marsh conditions.

‘It’s exciting to find a plant that is unique to the county,’ Trevor says. ‘We’ve only found it growing in one area close to the Essex border at the moment, but we hope to find the plant at other sites in the county.’

Join Trevor and other members of the group and you will soon enjoy the delights of wild flowers, get the chance to explore many areas of the county, and, who knows, you may just discover a rare plant.


More from Homes & Gardens

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Listed for its architectural and historical importance, this mansion is for sale through Strutt and Parker

Read more
November 2018
Monday, October 8, 2018

A 16th century farmhouse gave a father and daughter the chance to both fulfil childhood dreams

Read more
October 2018
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Nine bedroom Georgian country house for sale

Read more
September 2018
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ten years in the making, this remarkable home in the former orchard of St Albans Cathedral is as bespoke as a property can be. It had Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud reeling

Read more
September 2018
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How to tackle one of the most invasive plant species in the UK has resulted in innovative solutions, writes Charlotte Hussey of Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Read more
August 2018

Owned by the same family for generations on the historic Moor Place estate at Much Hadham, Yew Tree House and its current remarkable owner are full of stories

Read more
August 2018
Monday, July 30, 2018

Buy a raffle ticket and you could be the owner of your own manor house

Read more
August 2018

In an idyllic little world of its own, inspirational eco-home Thrift Cottage in Burnham Green shows that living with nature can come, well, naturally

Read more
July 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search