Wild Flowers in Spring

Alongside the plantings, there are of course some wildflower weeds. The Council couldn't kill them all if it tried, and its Living Landscape policy is now to let some areas grow free: they're good for wildlife.

The wild flowers are less dramatic but still very pretty. Here's some cow parsley, I think. If in doubt (it has deadly poisonous relatives), crush & sniff. Cow parsley smells of aniseed.

There are lamentably few butterflies in the meadows, but here's a small tortoiseshell on the cow parsley near Summerhall in April

Cow parsley's leaves mark it out as different from the similar flowers of Jack-by-the-hedge, garlic mustard, here growing on South Meadow Walk

And here's some on North Meadow Walk beside the cottages, hosting two sun-flies with their beautiful delicate wings, and two iridescent flies which look like soldier flies (thanks, Val Saville, for this - I would never have known where to start finding out what they were). 

Sun-flies don't sting, and soldier flies aren't known as a disease vector: rather they're seen as valuable for us.

A good spot for wild flowers is the Pavilion Cafe garden. Here's some wall speedwell or ivy-leaved speedwell, I think, which is a particularly small variety.  The flowers are minuscule. 

(The staff and the Friends of the Meadows have turned the cafe into a little haven, by the way)

Here's a similar flower just across the road, a few weeks later, now growing in profusion but battling through the grass. I'm not sure if it's the same as the cafe's flower, though - it's equally tiny but a mystery to me

Just nearby it were the pretty pink pea flowers of common vetch

Everywhere in the park in spring you can find a relative of the buttercup, the lesser celandine

Mowing isn't as intensive around the tree trunks, so they're a good place to see bees, some of which (as in the first photo below) have tiny orange pollen baskets, gathering pollen from dandelions and poppies.

And here, not quite so obviously adorable but very valuable to the ecosystem, is a common wasp on a dandelion leaf. Leave these in peace if you encounter one in the wild like this: kill one and it may release pheromones bringing its relatives to its defence.

(Wasps can be hard to tell apart from the harmless hoverfly until you look closely enough: here's a hoverfly nearby on a dock leaf, and below that is a sun-fly, or Footballer hoverfly, also nearby on another day, and so named because of the stripes on its thorax)

You don't have to look hard to find a dandelion in May.

Daisies are of course everywhere. 
In their hundreds, just waiting to be made into daisy chains ...

Lurking down among the Germander Speedwell (with its three large and one smaller petals) ...

Among the fallen cherry blossom ...

Among the dandelion seeds ...

As strange mutants ...

Providing a landing-pad for the odd bumblebee ...

... And even where there's shade enough for bluebells, if the sun passes by during the day, then up among them come those daisies.

Chickweed also appears everywhere, particularly around trees

Groundsel is also widespread, here caught in a shaft of sunlight and surrounded by speedwell, on South Meadow Walk over the Marchmont Road patch on a sunny Sunday in mid-May

And also here nearby among dandelions

Groundsel doesn't seem much to look at, but the Meadows are a bit short of favourite insect species, and the day I was taking these pics, I noticed that one of the groundsel plants had attracted a seven-spot ladybird. So it's a welcome sight for me. (The only other ladybirds I've seen so far are some two-spots that regularly wander the twigs of the old silver birches in the Links, and the occasional sighting of pine ladybirds on an American elm on South Meadow Walk.)

The yellow dock on Leamington Walk is however a haven for dock beetles.

Also in the nearby wildflower patch I noticed the small, subtle flowers of what looks like lady's smock

And red-dead nettle (which doesn't sting, and is popular with butterflies)

Some herb-robert has popped up in front of the beech hedge at the east end of North Meadow Walk 

And some honesty

In June you can find the straggling stems and little starry flowers of wood avens at several spots along the north-facing walls of South Meadow Walk. Its red burrs have hooks at the ends to catch on furry animals, and so spread their seeds.

Scotland never lacks a thistle, naturally. These often sneak into the tree guards around new trees, bursting with flowers until the wire protection is taken away and the parkie's scythe appears.

They don't flower till summer, though: July is the month to start seeing them. Here's an iconic spear thistle

Bees love these.

Some few-flowered garlic was an early spring flower, appearing in odd spots in the park. In the first photo here, its subtle shades look discordant among the brilliant primroses.

Some has also appeared among the crocuses on Middle Meadow Walk.

A few very bright forget-me-nots have sprung up in the Leven Terrace part of the park

And these are some paler Early Forget-Me-Nots, I think, off South Meadow Walk

They're much smaller than the forget-me-nots we notice most of the time: you can get some idea of their size if you compare the flowers below to the seedhead of the dandelion

On Bruntsfield Links, alongside the main road, there are a couple of clusters of Drooping Star-of-Bethlehem under an old lime tree

By May, the unmown areas are a riot of pretty weeds, as here by Melville Drive

and in front of Summerhall, where the unicorn rises high above a cloud of cow parsley

While looking across to its companion the lion

All jobs have their downsides, but sitting mowing the Meadows on a sunny day must be one of life's better working moments

Then, there are the cultivated wild flowers. Living Landscape (a Council initiative) and local gardeners Greening Our Streets each planted a wild flower meadow in 2015 and plan to do this every year. 

Here's the Living Landscape one, just off Warrender Park Terrace on a September sunset:

Its annuals on view in June 2016 include the little cut-leaved cranesbill

Dramatic viper's bugloss

Yellow-rattle, valuable to wildflower meadow creators because it reduces the dominance of grasses and allows other flowers to grow

Bee-loving cornflowers

and crinkly field poppies

Meanwhile, in May 2016, the Greening Our Streets plot near the Tollcross corner had already started to burst out with new growth and colour. 

Here's some of their rosy red campion

Healthy cowslips

A buttercup or two

Bees like these - and sure enough one appeared by a dead-nettle I was photographing, within a few seconds of me getting my camera out

The patch also has budding bluebells (I think these are Spanish bluebells, but they're still beautiful. Here's some advice on how to tell Spanish and native apart, although they also hybridise)

Ribwort plantain looks like no great beauty, but butterflies and hoverflies love it, and the Meadows & Links have almost no butterflies, so this is very welcome

Here's some more growing among white campion, which is popular with moths by night 

And just above the soil, there's more little speedwell.

This was just the start of the season: a huge amount of work and thought is flowing into this little wildflower plot. And that's just a sample of the flowers. In June, ecologist Jim Gardner identified 31 different wildflowers there:

Thanks to the talented volunteers.