Identification - South Downs and Coast

These are the weeds/wild flowers/ plants which I've seen on the South Downs and the South Coast, especially Hayling Island, where I used to go for a week every year. I am seeing plants there that I don't have in my garden or next door or in my local area so thought it would be good to put them on a separate page. - update - I am also seeing some of these in the London area but originally I had not and they were put here.

Of course, identification can be quite difficult as the photos I take are from that moment in time and there is no watching them grow and develop or see flowers or going back and taking a close-up photo.

Common Name Latin Name
Bristly Ox-tongue Helminthotheca echioides
Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Dusky Cranesbill Geranium phaeum
Dyer's Rocket Reseda luteola
Elder Sambucus
Evening Primrose Oenothera
Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis
Goat's-Beard Tragopogon pratensis
Glasswort Salicornia europaea
Goji Berry Lycium barbarum
Golden Samphire Limbarda crithmoides
Grass-leaved Orache Atriplex littoralis
Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa
Hawk's Beard Crepis
Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica
Hoary Stock Matthiola incana
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium
Horseweed Erigeron canadensis
Hottentot-Fig Carpobrotus edulis
Lesser Knapweed Centaurea nigra
Old Man's Beard Clematis vitalba
Orache ??  
Pink Dianthus plumarius
Ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Red Valerian Centhranthus ruber
Beach Rose Rosa rugosa
Rose Campion Silene coronaria
Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis
Sea Beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima
Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum
Sea Kale Crambe maritima
Sea Lavender Limonium vulgare
Sea Purslane Halimione portulacoides
Self-Heal Prunella vulgaris
Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima
White Bryony Bryonia dioica
Wild Carrot Daucus carota
Wild Lettuce Lactuca virosa
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Field of Thistles  

In alphabetical order, a few unknowns at the bottom.

Bristly Ox-tongue (Picris echioides renamed to Helminthotheca echioides??)

I don't know how wide-spread this is. I saw this on holiday in West Sussex - update - saw this in London (August 2017) so also see main Weed Guide

Bristly Ox-Tongue (Picris echioides)

I noticed this small plant with those distinctive blistered leaves in Hampshire on the way to Hayling Island and thought it looked like a younger bristly ox-tongue.

bristly oxtongue leaves

Common Spotted Orchid

common spotted orchid

the leaves aren't that clear in the photo above but maybe the photo below will show them a bit but not all that clearly unfortunately

common spotted orchid leaves


Thank you to reader Ruth who's helped with an ID for this.

Dusky Cranesbill (Geranium phaeum)

I am pretty confident this is a geranium. I am going with dusky cranesbill for the moment because of the flower shape although other examples I've seen are darker. I saw this on the South Downs.

dusky cranesbill

dusky cranesbill

dusky cranesbill

Dyer's Rocket (Reseda luteola)

seen on holiday in West Sussex

dyer's rocket

another example I saw in Hampshire

dyers rocket

Elder ??

I saw an example recently nearby and the friend who was with me thought it was an elder. I'm not really sure.


a popular Hayling Island plant (seen amongst the Hawk's-beard below)


Evening Primrose (Oenothera)

I think this is evening primrose but not sure what variety, if any.

evening primrose

Field Bindweed (also see Bindweed in the Weed Identification page)

smaller than the ordinary bindweed we tend to find in our gardens, I saw this at Lordington Lavender in West Sussex

field bindweed

underneath side has pink stripes

field bindweed


goats beard flower

the flower is not so clear in this photo but the stem and leaves are clearer



Goji Berry / Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree (Lycium barbarum)

July, I've only seen this on Hayling Island so I don't know exactly how wide-spread it is but a reader did send me a pic of hers from East Anglia (?) I think. This is the first one I've seen in person.

goji berry duke of argyll's tea tree

only a few flowers left on this plant and the fruits are developing, although still green

goji berry green fruits close-up

Glasswort (Salicornia europaea)

I saw this at the saltmarsh at The Kench, Hayling Island, July 2018 with the Golden Samphire below.


close-up of the glasswort


Golden Samphire (Limbarda crithmoides)

I saw this in a saltmarsh at The Kench, Hayling Island, July 2018

golden samphire

entire clump

golden samphire

close-up of the flowers

golden samphire

golden samphire

above and below, clearer view of the leaves

golden samphire

Grass-leaved Orache (Atriplex littoralis)

I saw this on Hayling Island on the south coast, July 2018

grass-leaved orache flower close-up

grass-leaved orache

entire grass-leaved orache plant

grass-leaved orache

grass-leaved orache close-up of the stems

grass-leaved orache stem close-up

Greater Knapweed

I saw this on the South Downs yesterday (5-6-2018). Although I grow this in my garden, I'd never seen it in the wild before.

greater knapweed

view from the top with new leaves, possibly buds emerging

greater knapweed


Having another look at this, and the examples I've seen in London, and I think it's Hawk's-beard, either beaked or smooth, not absolutely certain so far. I originally saw it on the south coast but then later saw it in London so have also put it in the main Weed Guide. In flower May to July,  long bare stems rising above base rosette of toothed leaves, multiple branching flower stems from the top part of the stems. These yellow-flowered "weeds" can be quite difficult to differentiate. 

I saw this a few days ago (July 9th) on Hayling Island.

autumn hawkbit

close-up of the leaves

autumn hawkbit leaves

close-up of the flowers, not a great pic, out of focus, but it's too far away to go back easily to take another photo

the next July, row of flowers in exactly the same place, perennial? or did someone just weed well keeping the row of yellow flowers?

yellow-flowered weed

another hawk's-beard on Hayling Island

dandelion-like weeds

I think these are something else, looking like giant dandelions, especially the second one, maybe that is indeed what they are?


Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica)

I saw this on the South Downs.

hedge woundwort

hedge woundwort

there were quite a number of them in this hedge

hedge woundworts

Hoary Stock (Matthiola incana)

This was taken in May, some flowers have finished.

matthiola incana hoary stock

3 years later, another example after the flowers have finished in July.

unknown hayling island wildflower



close-up of those distinctive leaves which were lower on the stem



Horseweed (Erigeron canadensis) (also see Horseweed on the Weed Identification page)

I do have this weed at home but this one is much larger than any I see at home. It was on the patio on Hayling Island so it's been getting a lot of heat and sun so it has lots of flower buds.


Hottentot-Fig (Carpobrotus edulis)

Thank you to reader Ruth who's helped with an ID for this.

Lesser Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

I saw this on the South Downs 5-6-2018. Most of the lesser knapweed had finished flowering, like the spent brown flowerheads behind. This was one of the couple I saw still in bloom. I've grown this from seed in my garden - one of the easier wildflowers to grow from seed (greater knapweed being one of the most difficult). The bees and butterflies love it.

lesser knapweed

Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba)

I also saw this on the South Downs early June 2018.

clematis vitalba possibly

clematis vitalba possibly

Orache ?? (not sure which one)

I feel sure this is an orache but not sure which one. It was on the seaside at Hayling Island, July 2018


seaside orache

"Pink" (Dianthus plumarius) ??

not sure anything more specific

dianthus plumarius


ragwort is everywhere but I saw this nice example with a red admiral butterfly in the churchyard in Binsted, West Sussex on holiday (I like visiting old churches)

red admiral butterfly on ragwort Binsted West Sussex

Red Valerian (Centhranthus ruber)

also white or pink flowers

red valerian

Rosa Rugosa

rosa rugosa

the rose hips on this rose are enormous, like fruit

rosa rugosa hips

Rose Campion (Silene coronaria)

lychnis coronaria

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

I saw this in Hampshire on the way to Hayling Island. I have not seen this in London but maybe it's there somewhere - I don't know.

scarlet pimpernel

Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima)

a very sprawling example I saw at Eastcoke Corner on Hayling Island

sea beet

sea beet close-up

sea beet

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum)

This is at the nature reserve at Sandy Point on Hayling Island. I don't recall seeing any before so I wonder if they planted some wildflowers there.

sea holly Hayling Island

sea holly Hayling Island

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

sea kale

when I saw this sea kale (July 2018) the flowers were finished leaving lots and lots of seed pods

sea kale seed pods

Sea Lavender

sea lavender

I had this as "sea lavender" previously but looks quite different from the sea lavender I saw a few days ago above. Maybe it's age? I will look into this.

Sea Purslane (Halimione portulacoides)

sea purslane

flower close-up

sea purslane

Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris)

the purple flowers left and right, ignore the stinging nettle in the middle, I don't know how wide-spread this is I saw this in Hampshire on the way to Hayling Island, I have not seen it in London


close-up of a flower from above


White Bryony (Bryonia dioica)

I saw this on the South Downs June 2018.

white bryony

close-up of a flower

white bryony

another flower close-up, showing a leaf

white bryony

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) ??

Only now that I'm reading about wild carrot (after I'm home), it says it smells like carrot which I didn't know so didn't smell it. Next time I'm on Hayling Island, I'll have to put my nose in it.

wild carrot

I also saw this on the South Downs. Initially it has a pink colour, close-up of the flowerhead. The stem is actually quite tall.

wild carrot

this shows the leaves although the flower is not very clear

wild carrot

Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa)

(low weed at the bottom is pellitory-of-the-wall)

close-up of the wild lettuce flowers

wild lettuce flowers

close-up of the wild lettuce leaves

wild lettuce leaves

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)




this has no flowers to help with identification but the leaves a look like yellow-horned poppy

unknown hayling island


Field of Thistles

I am intrigued about this field of thistles we came across on the South Downs. It has at least 2 kinds of thistles, maybe 3? Definitely Spear Thistle in bud but no flowers yet. Musk Thistle in bloom now?


there were lots of bees on the thistles

thistle with bee

this thistle looks nodding like a musk thistle, as does the one above


but this one is upright

thistle flower

close-up of some of the buds

thistle buds

thistle field South Downs

spear thistle on the right not in bloom yet

thistle field South Downs

thistle field South Downs

views of the whole field, South Downs in the background, facing the south

thistle field South Downs

thistle field South Downs

thistle field South Downs