Oxlip 1500x390 Darin Smith


Discover Suffolk's County Flower - the Oxlip

The Oxlip - Suffolk's County Flower

Oxlip Bradfield Woods Steve Alyward

The oxlip as seen in Bradfield Woods near Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Steve Alyward/Suffolk Wildlife Trust

The Oxlip, with its distinctive pale yellow blooms with five petals, is an ancient flower classed as near threatened in Britain and only grows in small parts of woodland in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

As an early flowering plant, oxlip provides nectar for early emerging bees and butterflies which will in turn pollinate the plant. It was voted the County Flower of Suffolk in 2002 following a poll by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife.

Woodcarver John Williams has been creating a sculpture of an Oxlip in the Abbey Garden's to permanently symbolise this threatened Suffolk flower.

John aims to finish the sculpture by July 2024 and it has been expertly and lovingly carved from the stump of a cherry tree.

The sculpture will show a Green Man with the Oxlip in cupped hands, a nod to Nathaniel Hudson, who in 1831 founded the Abbey Gardens as a botanic garden.

Although the flower is rare, you can still find Oxlip blooming in woodland near Bury St Edmunds in April and May at Bull’s Wood Nature Reserve and Bradfield Woods Nature Reserve, run by Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

It can often be confused with cowslip, but they have deeper yellow flowers which don’t all face the same direction.

Did you know?

  • There is a rare mention of the Oxlip by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Oberon, King of the Fairies, is talking to his messenger Puck about where Queen Titania is sleeping:
    “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
    Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows…”
  • The common name "oxlip", from "ox" and "slip", may refer to the fact that oxlips (and cowslips) are often found in a boggy pasture used by cattle.
  • Oxlip was traditionally used to treat coughs and rheumatism.
  • Oxlip is a semi-evergreen perennial plant

John Williams Carving Oxlip Peter Layland

John Williams carving the oxlip sculpture from a cherry tree stump. Photo: Peter Layland.

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