Children have a natural affinity with nature. Spending time outdoors in green spaces and observing nature, is great for our physical and mental well-being, not to mention being perfect for fun, informal learning.
Here are 12 fun facts about nature for every month of the year. From January through to December, there’s wonderful bitesize learning to enjoy.
I’ve chosen flowers, trees and birds which can be found all around us. Have fun spotting them on walks, in parks, in gardens and growing along hedgerows, pavements and roadsides, in towns, cities and the countryside.
Snowdrops are tiny white bell-shaped flowers.
They are one of the first flowers of the new year and remind us that spring and warmer weather will soon be on its way.
Originally snowdrops came from mainland Europe and the Middle East but are thought to have been growing in the UK since 1500s – a very long time!
Snowdrops like damp soil and you will find them growing in woodland and along riverbanks, as well as in parks, gardens and meadows.
The leaves have strong pointed tips which help them break through frozen soil.
They provide much needed nectar and pollen for bees and other insects at time when there is not much food available.
Snowdrops belong to a group of flowers called ‘Galanthus’.
This word comes from two Greek words, ‘gala’ meaning ‘milk’ and ‘anthus’ meaning ‘flower’.
Crocuses usually flower in late winter to early spring but there is also a group of crocus which flower in the autumn.
They are mostly white, orange, yellow or purple.
Crocuses are found in lots of parts of the world – southern Europe, north Africa, the Middle East, south Asia through to western China.
These strong little flowers grow in woodlands, meadows, deserts and stony mountain slopes.
The crocus is sometimes called the light bulb flower because of its shape when its petals are closed!
They close at night when it is cold and wet and reopen in the daytime.
We get the spice ‘Saffron’ from the autumn flowering crocus. Can you see the orangey red saffron strands in the centre of the purple crocus?
Saffron is used to colour and flavour food dishes such as rice, soups and cakes and it is the most expensive spice in the world!
Cow parsley is a wild flower and is found throughout the UK, Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa.
You will see it growing in both city areas and countryside. It prefers shaded areas and grows next to roadsides, near hedgerows and woodland, as well as our gardens and parks.
Did you know that cow parsley is a member of the carrot family?!
It flowers early in spring usually between April and June.
Cow parsley flowers are white and they look like fluffy snow, don’t they? They grow in little clusters called umbels.
The word umbel comes from the Latin word ‘umbella’ meaning parasol or umbrella. The flower clusters look like little umbrellas, don’t they?!
Other names for cow parsley include fairy lace and hedge parsley.
Cow parsley is important for a variety of insects, including bees, hoverflies and moths. It is an early source of nectar at a time in the year when there are not many other flowers around.
Bluebells usually flower from mid April to late May and are a wonderful sign that spring and warmer weather has arrived!
Bluebell flowers are a beautiful violet blue colour and have a strong, sweet smell.
They have 6 petals which curl up at the ends and look like little bells.
Bluebells grow all over western Europe but did you know that almost half of the world’s bluebells live in the UK!
They like growing in the shade and you will find them in woodland, under hedges and fields.
When lots of bluebells grow together, they look like a beautiful blue carpet!
They don’t like to be disturbed so we must be careful not to step on them when out walking.
In folklore, it was said that at daybreak (the start of the day), bluebells ring to call fairies to the woods.
Dog rose is a climbing rose which uses its strong prickly thorns to grip on to other plants or a wall to help it climb.
It can grow up to 3m tall when well supported. You will find dog rose in hedgerows, around the edges of woodland and on scrubland.
Dog rose usually bloom from May to August.
The flowers have 5 large pink or white petals and lots of yellow stamen. The fruit, called rose hips, is bright red and oval-shaped. It ripens in September and October.
Insects love dog rose flowers as they contain lots of nectar and birds like eating the rose hips!
Rose hips are rich in vitamin C and you can make a syrup by boiling them in water and sugar.
Did you know that in Germany it is said that fairies use rose hips to make themselves invisible?!
The name ‘dog rose’ is thought to come from the belief that the root of the plant was able to make people better if they were bitten by a wild dog.
Did you know clover belongs to the pea family? There are over 300 different types of clover and it grows in most parts of the world.
Clover is also called trefoil which comes from 2 Latin words, ‘tres’ and ‘folium’ which means 3 leaves.
Today, we’ll look at white clover which grows in garden lawns, roadsides, meadows, fields and parks.
White clover has small, fragrant round-shaped flowers which appear from May to October.
Bees adore them because they have lots of nectar.
Farm animals, such as cows and horses, also love white clover. It’s good for them as it contains protein, vitamins & minerals.
A shamrock is a type of clover. It’s a national symbol of Ireland. The word shamrock means ‘young clover’ in Irish.
It is thought to be very lucky if you find a clover with 4 leaves.
Have you ever found a 4-leaved clover?
There are over 83 species of swallow & they are found all around the world except Antarctica.
Swallows arrive in the UK in May & leave in October.
They spend our winter months in South Africa. It takes them 6 weeks to get there, flying 200 miles each day!
Swallows are dark blue with a cream underside & red forehead & throat. They have a forked tail with 2 long tail streamers.
Male & female swallows are almost identical.
Swallows are graceful and acrobatic flyers. In fact, they eat & drink whilst flying!
They catch flies in the air & scoop up water with their open beaks by flying low over lakes/rivers.
Swallows usually have 2 broods of 4 eggs each summer.
Baby swallows have big appetites & need to eat over 1,000 flies each day to survive!
In lots of cultures, swallows are a symbol of good luck.
Bramble is a shrub which has delicious and juicy fruit in late summer and early autumn called blackberries. Yum!
It grows in lots of places, including woodlands, hedgerows, gardens, parks, scrubland, cliffs, roadside verges and waste ground.
Did you know that bramble belongs to the rose family?
Like roses, bramble has green stems which are covered in thorns so be careful when you go near it – they are very prickly as you can see in the photo!
Bramble uses its thorns to help it climb.
In late spring and early summer, bramble has lovely white or pink flowers and the blackberries grow from these flowers.
Bees and butterflies love bramble flowers as they contain lots of nectar and lots of animals, including caterpillar and deer, like eating bramble leaves!
The berries are green at first, then red, and finally black when they are ready to eat.
Blackberries contain lots of vitamin C and fibre which is good for us.
Buddleia is a large shrub with little cone-shaped flowers.
The flowers appear from June to October and are usually purple, blue, pink or white and smell like honey!
Another name for buddleia is the ‘butterfly bush’ as butterflies adore them! This is because buddleia has lots of flowers.
These flowers are, however, are quite deep, which means only insects with long tongues like butterflies, moths and bees can reach the nectar inside.
Buddleia originally comes from China but was brought here about 130 years ago.
Its winged seeds are tough and easily carried by the wind.
Buddleia grows well in most soils, including stony ground, so you can see buddleia in gardens, countryside, as well as cities and railway lines.
Have you spotted buddleia whilst on a walk or a train ride?
Honeysuckle is a climbing plant with beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers which appear in the summer and early autumn and clusters of red berries from late autumn.
It is called honeysuckle because its flowers contain so much liquid nectar inside them.
Honeysuckle grows well in our gardens but you will also find it in hedgerows and woodlands.
It likes to grow and weave around trees and shrubs and because of this, the honeysuckle is also called Woodbine.
Honeysuckle is like a wildlife hotel! The nectar-rich, sweet-smelling flowers attract butterflies and bumblebees during the day and attract moths at night.
Birds and dormice sometimes build their nests in the honeysuckle and dormice eat the sweet flowers to give them energy.
Squirrels and birds love to eat the red berries in autumn.
Isn’t that amazing?!
Hawthorn can grow both as a tree and as hedgerow.
The scientific name for hawthorn (crataegus) comes from 2 Greek words ‘kratos’ meaning ‘strength’ and ‘akis’ meaning ‘sharp’.
This refers to how strong the wood of the hawthorn tree is and the fact it has very sharp thorns so be careful when you go near it!
Hawthorn is robust and able to grow in lots of different places, so we can find it in the countryside, woodlands and in our towns and cities.
Hawthorn leaves are some of the first leaves to appear in spring.
The green leaves are edible and can be used in salads or made into tea.
Hawthorn produces beautiful white/pale pink blossom in May which is why it is also called the May Tree.
Its blossom was seen as a sign that spring was turning into summer.
In autumn, it has small red berries called haws. Haws are also edible and can be made into jam or jelly.
Holly has shiny dark green leaves which have prickles around their edges so be careful if you touch them!
The trees are either male or female.
Both the male and female have little white flowers in springtime but only the female trees produce bright red berries in autumn and winter.
Holly is an evergreen tree. This means it keeps its green leaves all year round and doesn’t lose them in autumn like lots of other trees do.
The holly tree provides food for lots of insects, birds and animals.
The caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly enjoy munching the leaves.
Mice and birds love eating the red berries.
In fact, the mistle thrush (see the photo) is known to guard a holly tree to stop other birds eating the berries!
It is thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree but lucky to cut branches and bring home to decorate inside!
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