Lichens and flowering plants | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Lichens and flowering plants

During the spring and summer months the site is mowed, but with different areas in rotation left to grow to flower and seed and care is taken over the whole site to leave areas of flower uncut.  Our aim is to encourage further diversity of flora.


Lichen covers a Victorian headstone in Rectory Lane

Churchyards and cemeteries are extremely important in supporting rare species of lichen. Lichen (pronounced like-en) are types of fungus that grow on stonework, forming mosaics of colour, adding to the character of ancient monuments. Delicate organisms, they draw all their nutrients from rainwater and the air, and so are very susceptible to pollution.

Here in Rectory Lane Cemetery we have recorded over 70 types of lichen, and we are working with conservation organisations to study and enhance this rare lichen habitat.



Cowslips grow among the headstones

Appearing in early spring, cowslips brighten the cemetery with hundreds of small, egg-yolk-yellow flowers blooming among the headstones. The wild cowslip (Primula veris) is in the same botanical family as the primula.

Cowslips are seen all over the Chilterns and grow across northern Europe, appearing in meadows, ancient woodlands and hedgerows. Years ago, it was common to see fields covered in bright yellow cowslips, but these habitats are increasingly threatened. Rectory Lane Cemetery plays a small but vital part in encouraging these flowers to thrive.

The Cowslip has strong associations with English literature, folklore and druidic traditions; they used to be scattered like confetti at weddings, and they are traditionally used to make garlands for May Day celebrations. Cowslips are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays; in A Midsummer Night’s Dream they are adorned with dewdrops for Titania the Fairy Queen, and in The Tempest, Ariel sings of lying in a cowslip’s bell.




Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is a tall, common wildflower. It is a biennial (living two years and flowering in its second year) which sprouts clusters of yellow daisy-like flowers in late summer and autumn. 

Although it is very pretty, ragwort is very poisonous to cattle and horses. Because its seeds are spread by the wind, it is important to control ragwort in the cemetery, in line with the Ragwort Control Act 2003.


Other flowering plants

Other flowering plants found in the cemetery:

  • Cuckooflower
  • Germander Speedwell
  • Red Clover
  • Oxeye Daisy
  • White Clover
  • Selfheal
  • Yarrow
  • Slender Speedwell
  • Wood Sorrel
  • Primrose
  • Hazel
  • Field Rose
  • Fox and Cubs
  • Common Dog-violet
  • Cow parsley


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Further Reading

For more information please contact

photo of Kate Campbell

 Kate Campbell

       07866 024254