Monday, 20 June 2016

plant life: road verge guide

the campaign:

press release from Plantlife website

A blooming awful summer?

Summer flowers are a rarer sight on our road verges

June 20 2016
The last few decades has seen huge changes in our road verge flora.  

As a result of mowing earlier in the year we have effectively lost summer from verges in many areas. We often get magnificent displays of bluebells, cowslips and  celandines that give a clear sign that spring is here but sadly we don’t get the same floral signs to welcome the arrival of summer. Only plants that flower early get the chance to set seed before the mowers arrive. As a result some spring flowers are thriving and spreading, but many summer flowers are disappearing. This isn’t just bad news for the 700 species of flowers that grow on our verges, it’s bad news for the bees, beetles, butterflies and birds that rely on them for food.

As a result of these management changes we can reveal some road verge winners and losers....


  • Cuckooflower, cowslip, garlic mustard and celandine. All these early spring-flowering species put on fantastic displays on many verges. They set their seed quickly – within just a few weeks – and are therefore able to spread before the first cut. 
  • Three-cornered Garlic. This highly invasive non-native bulb produces white flowers in spring and first escaped from gardens in 1849.  It’s spreading rapidly along road verges outcompeting native vegetation, and is found from Land’s End to Orkney, being especially abundant in southern England.
  • Cow parsley. Although loved by many, especially when roads are garlanded with delicate white lace in May, this is a very invasive native perennial. It has undergone an explosion in abundance on our verges, where it relishes the increasingly fertile soils. It reproduces vigorously by vegetative spread and doesn’t need to set seed to survive, so it can spread in the face of early mowing, out-competing many other roadside flowers.


  • Yellow rattle and eyebrights. These summer flowering annuals are classic meadow species, but they need to set seed every year in order to survive. Early spring cutting has all but eradicated them from verges, which is ironic as they could be the saviours of our verge flowers and help control the growth of grass (see below).
  • White campion. Once common and widespread on our verges, this summer-flowering perennial is short-lived and relies on new plants regularly growing from seed. Like many other summer-flowering meadow perennials, such as field scabious, betony and knapweed, it’s becoming rarer on verges, with knock-on consequences for pollinating insects.
  • Man orchid, greater butterfly-orchid, green-winged orchid and frog orchid. While these orchids flower in early summer, like most of the 25 orchid species on our roadsides their seed pods take weeks to fully ripen. Early cutting destroys them and the hundreds of thousands of seeds they contain. As a result these orchids are now rare on verges, except those that are properly managed.  

This month Plantlife launch their road verge campaign to encourage those in charge of our verges to cut less and cut later in the year. As part of their campaign, the conservation charity have created a new “Good Verge Guide” which will offer councils and community groups expert advice on how to better manage road verges for wildflowers whilst keeping them safe for motorists.

One solution the Good Verge Guide will explore is the use of yellow rattle, an annual meadow plant that was once common on flower-rich road verges. As it germinates each spring, its roots tap into those of the grasses growing around it, stealing water and nutrients reducing their growth by 40-60%. With less competition from vigorous grasses, other wildflowers like harebells and orchids have more room to thrive. Instead of cutting grass three or four times a year, Councils such as Dorset, Anglesey and Gwynedd are experimenting with introducing Yellow Rattle onto road verges, bringing in seed from those few surviving ancient wildflower meadows.

Plantlife’s Botantical Expert Dr Trevor Dines says “It’s a win-win situation. Yellow rattle acts like nature’s lawn mower. With grass growth reduced naturally, less mowing is needed (with savings for the council budget) and more flowers grow, bringing colour back to verges and providing essential nectar for pollinators and food and shelter for a wealth of other wildlife”  

Plantlife are currently working with councils across the UK and as a result 2,370 hectares of road verges is protected but far more needs to be done. In June 2016, Plantlife launches its road verge campaign for the 5th year and are urging people who love wildflowers to sign the petition to show councils it’s crucial for road verges to be managed with wildflowers and wildlife in mind.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Plantlife 2013 LINK STILL STANDS FOR 2014

this year's campaign

May Mai 2013

I still continue to observe and jot down notes, and this blog remains a place to put links etc into. Unfortunately I do not have time and energy to DO a lot.

the verge, bank, and hedge have been scalped along the A478, I suspect all for the Urdd Eisteddfod. I have asked Pembrokeshire County Council if, with regard to verge cutting, they have a biodiversity policy, they said we start cutting banks in July. For health & safety some junctions and verges cut before that. If you ask questions about verge cutting you are put in touch with the team in your area, not someone with over all care of biodiversity etc.
It is illegal for farmers to cut hedges at this time of the year because it is illegal to disturb nesting birds.

we've had a new plant arrive in the last 3 years and it is expanding

shining crane's bill

geranium lucidum shining cranes's bill

Friday, 25 May 2012

a petition

Give Us Back our Wild Flowers

Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Local authorities typically manage vast areas of amenity open space and roadside grass verges by regular cutting to ground level - as for sports fields. This has drastically reduced populations of previously common low-growing grassland wild flower species, resulting in a serious loss of habitat for our already endangered wild bees, butterflies and other arthropods. This in turn threatens the survival of other wildlife. It also creates a visually barren landscape devoid of attraction for young people, on the cultivation of whose enthusiasm the future of conservation must depend. To reverse this destruction, we propose that national principles for amenity open space and road verge management be defined as follows: that the cutting regime on amenity grassland other than designated sports pitches should ensure the grass is never shorter than 50-60 mm; that the cutting of road verges where wild flora are still abundant be delayed until the flowers have set and shed seed.

Flora Locale

Flora locale promotes the restoration of wild plants and habitats for the benefit of biodiversity, landscapes and people in town and countryside.

from Bee Strawbridge

A really good and thorough blog entry from Bee Strawbridge defintely a place to start

Roadside verges - wildlife havens or deserts?

and an earlier post Frustrated with local council

An artist friend did some work on motorway embankments - I gave her an article about a person whose job it is to find out what grows there...shame I didn't hold onto the details...