Oh flower of Scotland!
From the vast meadows to the peaks of the Scottish mountain tops, you’ll uncover a plethora of wildflowers and native plant species. You simply need to know what you’re looking for! In typical ancient Scots fashion, many botanical species native to Scotland are surrounded by mythology and symbolism which makes them even more fascinating.
Let’s take a look at some of Scotland’s most favoured native flowers and plants.
Scotch Thistle (Onopordum acanthium)
Starting with possibly the most famous of all native Scottish flowers is the Scotch thistle. Otherwise known as Scotland’s ‘National Flower.’ The thistle has been an emblem of Scotland since as far back as the 15th century. The Scotch thistle can sprout up to an impressive five feet in height. With its bright purple bloom, prickly leaves, and white frosted appearance distinguishing it from similar thistle species. The Scotch thistle will often be found growing in barren wastelands, and even roadsides.
Did you know?
The legend of how the Scotch thistle came to be the emblem of Scotland is said to have originated from an attempted ambush on a Scottish village. Viking warriors crept barefoot in the middle of the night and one of the men stepped onto a thorny thistle. Crying out, the Scots were then awoken and able to fight off the invaders. How true this is, is still up for debate but there's certainly a lesson to be learned in roaming Scotland's rugged wilderness with no shoes on!
Scottish Bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia)
Otherwise known as the Harebell, the Scottish Bluebell can often be found in dry moorland and again can withstand the plummeting temperatures of the Scottish wilderness. Perhaps better than some of us Scots even can! To distinguish the Scottish bluebell from native English species that are still common north of the border, look for dainty blue/purple flowers that bloom July-September and a stalk that can reach around 20cm.
Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
Visit any hillside or mountain in Scotland and most likely you will see a purple blanket of heather coat the land. This is known as ‘ling’ heather and it’s the most common species of heather found in Scotland. This sturdy shrub can withstand the force of the Scottish weather and can thrive in damp conditions. Luckily Scotland is not short of wet, misty weather!
Scottish heather is also considered to be a sign of good luck. Often brides will incorporate it into their bouquet, and Scottish grooms may wear heather in their boutonniere. It has also been used throughout history for medicinal purposes and hundreds of years ago dried heather flowers would be used to stuff mattresses for a soft and heavenly scented good night’s sleep!
Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale)
Although the Bog Myrtle might not be much to look at, it packs a secret power that anyone who has travelled north of Scotland will be grateful for. Yep, this humble shrub is a natural midge repellent! Extracts of the plant have even been used in commercial repellents. To smell, the bog myrtle has a sweet, honey-like aroma. Small, brown/red buds bloom from the thin stick branch with large green leaves that surround them. It is also used for anti-aging purposes in natural skin care products. Highland Soap Co. distills and uses bog myrtle in their vegan, handmade skincare products created here in Scotland.
Scottish Primrose (Primula scotica)
Image via nature.scot
Originating from Orkney and the northern coast of mainland Scotland, the Scottish primrose is entirely unique to Scotland. This dainty little wildflower blooms into a beautiful shade of purple with a yellow centre and with only the slightest scent. The flowers grow in clusters and despite their miniature size they can withstand the wild weather of coastal cliff edges and barren grounds.
The Scottish Primrose has been declared ‘nationally scarce’ on the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity List. Most likely this is due to changes in agricultural practices and increased property development.
Would you like to know even more about native Scottish plants and flowers?
To save yourself traipsing around the Scottish Highlands, why not plan a visit to your local botanical garden? Here, not only will you see examples of native Scottish plants, but you’ll also be in the perfect place to ask any questions and learn about each wildflower.
Check out our guide to Scotland’s top botanical gardens to locate your nearest garden, the types of plants they have, and conservation work that they are doing.