Trees and Flowers

The majority of flowers and trees found around the Floating Harbour are not from the UK. Many of the flowering plants have escaped from gardens and parks; their seeds have been blown in the air and germinated in the shallow soil found in crevices in the Harbour’s stonewalls. Others, such as fig trees, may have germinated from fruits thrown overboard from ships or entered the water via sewage.

Most of the trees have been deliberately planted and are specially selected varieties that easily survive in urban areas affected by air pollution. These trees are also adapted to drier conditions, a necessity when most rain water runs off man-made surfaces, such as pavements and roads, and down drains with little reaching the tree roots themselves.

fleabaneMexican Fleabane

Mexican Fleabane originally comes from Mexico. It looks like a pink daisy and can be seen growing in large clumps out of the Harbour walls.

figtreeFig Trees

Fig trees are normally found throughout southern Europe. Some big fig trees grow in the Floating Harbour walls, for example, by Castle Park. Fig trees growing in the UK produce only infertile fruit. This is because figs require a particular fly not found in the UK to help with pollination. Without this fly, the figs will develop but remain infertile and therefore unable to grow into new trees when they drop.


Bright purple bellflowers transform the walls of the Floating Harbour during May and June. These flowers are commonly seen growing wild on walls in Bristol, having escaped from gardens. They originate from southern Europe.

valerianRed Valerian

Valerian can be red, pink or white. It is commonly found growing out of the Harbour walls. Like most of the flowering plants in the Floating Harbour it has escaped from domestic gardens. It is found growing wild in southern Europe.

irisYellow Flag Iris

The yellow flag iris is a common water plant found in the shallows of the Floating Harbour. During the summer is produces bright yellow flowers. Irises are an important component of a marshy habitat. Dragonfly larvae will often climb up iris leaves where they then transform into dragonflies.

hemlockHemlock Water Dropwort

Hemlock water dropwort is a common plant found flowering along the Floating Harbour during the summer. It has tall, dark green stems and large, umbrella-like white flowers. It is related to cow parsley, a common plant found along roadside verges and paths. Warning, avoid touching – hemlock water dropwort is very toxic and if eaten may cause death.

See our wildlife photo gallery.

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