Nature Profiles

Flora of the Dark Peak and Eastern Moors


The commonest marsh-dwelling Ranunculus in Britain, Lesser Spearwort is named for the leaves, which are shaped like spearheads.  This species is widespread in the Dark Peak, but rare elsewhere in Derbyshire.

The flowers are small (much smaller than the buttercups commonly seen in meadows) and are borne on furrowed stalks.

The similar Greater Spearwort (R.lingua) also occurs in Derbyshire, but is very rare and is all but absent from the Dark Peak, being more a plant of lowland ditches, ponds and canals.



Climbing Corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata)

Froggatt Wood

An scrambling, climbing annual of acidic woodlands on the Peak Fringe, this species can be recognised by its creamy-white flowers and tendril-bearing bipinnate leaves. 

Climbing Corydalis is largely restricted to the central northern part of Derbyshire, and is absent from the White and Dark Peak.  Nationally, it is widespread in lowland, wooded areas, especially in the west.



Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)


Froggatt Wood

Ragged Robin is fairly widespread in neutral flushes and fens in the Dark Peak, and is fairly common across Derbyshire as a whole.  The sight of a damp meadow filled with Ragged Robin's pink flowers is beautiful.

This species is described in more detail in the Flora of Tentsmuir Point NNR section of the site.

Eastern Moors



Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

As well as being a common woodland plant, Lesser Stitchwort can be found in more open habitats, such as acidic grassland and moorland.  The plants here were growing in a flushed fen-type habitat.




Slender St John's-wort (Hypericum pulchrum)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

This beautiful plant is common in the Dark Peak, where it grows in dry grassland on acidic soils.

Distinguishing features of this species, apart from the habitat, are the black dots along the edges of the petals and sepals, and the red undersides to the petals (visible when the plant is in bud).  The stems are also round, rather than ridged, and the leaves have cordate bases rather than short stalks.

leaf detail



Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)


Mill Dale, Ladybower

The only Drosera species found in Derbyshire, Round-leaved Sundew is a rare plant in the county, despite the abundance of suitable habitat in the Dark Peak.  Undoubtedly the species is much less abundant  than it would have been in pre-industrial times, before widespread atmospheric pollution caused irreversible damage to the moorland vegetation.

bud detail

in habitat



Water-cress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

The commonly-cultivated Water-cress is a fairly widespread native perennial of Derbyshire, although it is not at all frequent in the Dark Peak. 

Separating true Water-cress from various hybrids can be difficult, but as a species aggregate, the rounded leaves and clusters of four-petalled flowers makes identification easy.



Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

The glossy green leaves of this low-growing shrub are a frequent sight in the Dark Peak and areas of the Peak Fringe.  These sites mark the south-eastern limit of the species' natural distribution in Britain.

More details about Cowberry can be read in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.



Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

When the bright red edible fruits are absent (as here), Cranberry is easily overlooked on damp moorland due to its slender, creeping stems and small leaves.

It is a common plant in suitable habitat in Derbyshire and, like Cowberry, the Peak Fringe forms the south-eastern limit of its main British distribution.





Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)

Mill Dale

Less common in Derbyshire than Cross-leaved Heath (E.tetralix), Bell Heather is nonetheless widespread and frequent in the Dark Peak, especially where moorland is well-drained and not prone to waterlogging.

Diagnostic details of the species can be seen in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.



Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris)


Calver Marsh

An uncommon plant of neutral fens and water margins, Yellow Loosestrife is always a lovely plant to see in flower.  Although escaped cultivars are often seen, the pure, natural form is more elegant in every way, with beautiful clear yellow flowers and contrasting dark green foliage.

The similar Tufted Loosestrife (L.thyrsiflora) is not present in Derbyshire.

in habitat, River Derwent, Cromford



Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum)

Froggatt Wood

A very common plant of damp woodland, Yellow Pimpernel is easily identified by its bright yellow five-petalled flowers and creeping stems with large, opposite, pointed leaves which have undulate margins.



Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)

River Derwent, Cromford

A common shrub throughout most of Derbyshire, Guelder Rose often forms a dominant part of the shrubby understory of woodlands, occasionally growing with Field Maple.  The two species have rather similar, palmately-lobed leaves, but those of Guelder Rose are sharply-toothed.



Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)

Froggatt Wood

Damp, neutral meadows are the favoured habitats for this beautiful wine-coloured perennial.  It is easily distinguished from the more common Salad Burnet (S.minor ssp.minor) by the cylindrical shape of the flowerheads and its much larger size.

Nationally, the species has a curious distribution, being almost entirely absent from Scotland, East Anglia and southern England (apart from the south-west).



Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus)


leaf detail showing hairy margins, Mill Dale, Ladybower

The elegant plant is common in marshes and bogs across much of Derbyshire. 

It is generally taller than Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, and has broader leaves with hairy margins (just visible in these photos).  The two species occasionally occur together, and the most definite way to distinguish them is to look at the calyx teeth (see account for Lotus corniculatus).




Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

As its name suggests, this is very much a plant of marshes and bogs, and is a more delicate, graceful plant than its taller, invasive cousins.  It is common throughout the Dark Peak and Peak Fringe where suitable habitat occurs.

Marsh Willowherb is distinguished by its long, thin, stalkless leaves (just visible at the bottom right of this photo), its very pale flowers with club-shaped stigmas, and overall small stature.  Hoary Willowherb (E.parviflorum) also occurs in marshes, but is taller and has broader, hairy leaves.



Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)

Froggatt Wood

A common perennial of broad-leaved woodland on neutral to base-rich soils, Enchanter's Nightshade can be recognised by its two-petalled flowers (these are divided in two, to give the appearance of four petals) held on spikes above the large, opposite leaves. 




Fairy Flax (Linum catharticum)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

Due to its preference for calcareous soils, Fairy Flax is a rare plant in the Dark Peak, restricted to areas of base-rich seepage.

The species is described in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak grasslands section of the site.



Heath Milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia)

Image coming soon!

Common on all the Dark Peak moorlands, Heath Milkwort is described in the Flora of Dorset section of the site.



Upright Hedge-parsley (Torilis japonica)


Calver Marshes

Common throughout much of Derbyshire, this common late summer annual is very similar to the very common Cow Parsley.  Key differences, apart from the later flowering, are the solid, rough, unspotted stems and fruits covered in curved spines.

The similar Knotted Hedge-parsley (T.nodosa) is very rare in Derbyshire, and unrecorded from the Dark Peak.










Hogweed (

Cromford Canal

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Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris)

Mill Dale, Ladybower

This unlikely-looking umbellifer is fairly common in and around flushes and marshes in the Dark Peak.  The round (penny-shaped) leaves make it easy to recognise.

Nationally, Marsh Pennywort is a widespread and common species, especially the west and Scotland.



Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)

Calver Marshes

Forget-me-nots can be a tricky family of species to differentiate.  Habitat is a good initial indicator of likely species, but to be certain of which species you are looking at, small features such as the shape of the calyx teeth need to be looked at.  M.scorpioides is a widespread wetland species, with equilateral calyx teeth - this separates it from M.secunda and M.laxa, which occur in similar habitats.




Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)


mntCalver Marshes

Recognisable by its terminal rounded flowerheads, Water Mint is a common perennial of permanently inundated sites, such as marshes and fens.  It is widespread in lowland wetlands in the Dark Peak, as well as in the rest of Derbyshire.



Betony (Betonica officinalis)

Froggatt Wood

One of the most beautiful meadow plants in Derbyshire (in my opinion!), Betony can be found in damp habitats (both acidic and calcareous) throughout much of the county, although it avoids the high moors of the Dark Peak.

No other plant in our resembles Betony when in flower, making it easy to recognise.

Nationally it is a widespread species in England and Wales, but is very rare in Scotland.



Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris)

Cromford Canal

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Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata)

Calver Marshes

Mainly a plant of lowland Derbyshire, Water Figwort enters the Dark Peak and Peak fringe along the Wye and Derwent Valleys.

Water Figwort grows on river banks and other water margins, and can be recognised by its ridged, angled stems and bluntly-toothed leaves.

The more abundant Common Figwort (S.nodosa) is similar, but never grows in the marginal habitats of Water Figwort, preferring dry, disturbed ground.




Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Cupola Pond

By far the commonest Campanula species in Britain, this dainty plant is familiar to many, and colonies can cover large areas of acidic grassland.




Giant Bellflower (Campanula latifolia)


River Derwent, Cromford

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Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea)


leaves amongst moorland vegetation, Mill Dale, Ladybower

One of the specialities of the Dark Peak, this rare moorland perennial is locally common alongside some streams in the Ladybower area.  It is unmistakable when seen, especially when the small pale purple flowers open fully in the sun.

Nationally, Ivy-leaved Bellflower is a fairly rare plant, with most of the population in Wales and the south-west of England.  The High Peak of Derbyshire forms one of two large disjunct populations, the other being in Sussex.





Marsh Bedstraw (Galium palustre)

Froggatt Wood

This elegant, upright scrambling plant is common in and around marshes and fens in much of Derbyshire.  It can be distinguished from other Bedstraws by a combination of habitat and leaf details - the leaves have a rounded (not mucronate) tip and backward-pointing prickles.  The flowers are also borne in wide, spreading panicles.

The similar Fen Bedstraw (G.uliginosum) also occurs in Derbyshire, but is much, much rarer and can be distinguished by its mucronate leaf tips and narrow flower panicles.

leaf detail







Small Teasel (Dipsacus pilosus)

Cromford Canal

Text coming soon!



Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus)


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Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Linacre Woods

Truly wild daffodils (as opposed to garden escapes) are fairly rare now, and tend to be found in ancient woodland. 

This daffodil had a small group of beetles busily pollinating it (you can just make them out inside the flower).



Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)


Froggatt Wood

This cosmopolitan species is widespread in the Dark Peak on neutral soils, or mildly acidic ones.

The species is described in more detail in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak grasslands part 2 section of the site.