Nature on our doorsteps - Winter flowering

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

While winter is a time when most of our garden bedding plants have long since stopped flowering – some of our wildflowers will continue to produce an occasional blossom during winter.

These hardy plants will take advantage of any spell of mild weather to rapidly send out a few flowers.

Herb Robert sometimes develops red stems and leaves compressorHerb Robert sometimes develops red stems and leaves

They always live in hope of being pollinated by a passing insect who might also have been encouraged out by milder conditions.

Wildflowers you might see flowering around now include one of our wayside plants, Herb Robert.

This plant is also known as Crane’s-Bill, because its developing seed head looks like the head of a crane (a stork) with its long ‘beak’.

Herb Robert has five pretty pink petals and its leaves are finely cut, giving them a delicate fern-like appearance. When the plant grows in poor soils, its stems and leaves often turn red.

The seedheads of Herb Robert look like the head of a stork a Crane compressor

The seedheads of Herb Robert look like the head of a Crane (Stork)


‘Ruber’ originates from the Latin word for red so this may be the origin of the plant’s similar-sounding name of ‘Robert’.

This red colouration may also have given rise to the belief in folk medicine that this plant was useful in the treatment of blood complaints.

In any case, Herb Robert’s delicate pink flowers are a delight for us when we come across them on a dull mid-winter’s day.

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