Wildflowers on the verge

Wildflowers on the verge

Crested cow-wheat, one of the threatened plants that grow on verges. Credit: Picture: Sandy Wildlife

Roadside verges are a vital refuge for wildflowers driven out of farmland, says conservation charity Plantlife, and it is calling on councils to adopt management strategies which minimise mowing.

Plantlife has identified 724 plant species that grow on road verges in the UK. Of these, 91 are threatened or near-threatened. If ditches and hedgerows are included, the figure rises to 97 out of 809. Fen ragwort, for instance, is now confined in the wild to a single ditch near Ely in Cambridgeshire. Spiked rampion is found in just eight sites, including wooded lanes in mid- Sussex, and Welsh groundsel is found at 19 sites, four-fifths of which are on road verges.

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With the size of most verges, says Plantlife, there should be no conflict between safety and conservation. For many verges an annual late summer cut and the removal of the mowings will keep the verge open, safe and thriving with interesting wildlife – and this will also save money. A number of councils have already adopted Plantlife’s guidelines. Dorset County Council did so in 2014 and estimates that it has already saved £100,000 through, among other things, fewer cuts of verges.

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Steve Ott
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