Monday, 24 June 2013

Verging on madness



The A30 and A38 in Devon and Cornwall alone support 430 hectares or 4 square kilometres of flower-rich grassland? Just one junction is home to six orchid species including bee orchids and a staggering 1100 greater butterfly orchids, according to a recent report.

Our wonderful wayside flowers are ‘under attack’, with flowers are being mown down in full bloom, sprayed off with poisons, or smothered with cuttings. Over time, only coarse thugs like thistles, docks and grasses can survive this onslaught.

The organisation Plantlife has launched a campaign which is calling on councils to follow their new guidelines on how to better protect and manage road verges to give our native flora a chance.

Plantlife’s Dr Trevor Dines said: ‘It is almost ironic that the way we manage our road verges now encourages coarse and thuggish plants. Mown verges, smothered in cuttings might as well be just strips of green concrete.

‘Plantlife receives more calls on this subject than any other, from members of the public distraught and angry that their favourite verges full of cowslips and orchids are being mown down in the name of neatness and good management. But it doesn’t have to be this way – we want people to join the campaign, log on to the website and send us your 'before' and 'after' photos to help us lobby for change.’

The importance of road verges:

* there are 238,000 hectares of road verge in Britain, that’s twice as much grassland than is left in the countryside
* road verges and hedgerows are home to over 1,000 species, supporting two-thirds of all our wild flowers
* 33 wayside flowers are threatened with extinction, including Spiked Rampion, Crested Cow-Wheat and Bastard Balm, Long-Leaved Helleborine and Tower Mustard
* with the loss of our natural meadows, wildflowers on road verges play a vital role as a food source for pollinators

Flowers are being cut before they can set seed and energy returned to the rootstock, and then smothered by the cuttings which, as they rot down, add nutrients to the soil. Unfortunately, most wild flowers thrive on poor soil.You can read more on the excellent Plantlife websit.

Join the campaign here.

By Pamela Kelt