The importance of wildflowers
Stepping just outside my back door is a small wildflower verge, a strip of long grass and a tangle of wildflowers, underappreciated by the regular traffic of dogwalkers. This area is however a small but vital habitat for many species of plants and animals and should be valued and protected.
Plantains and grasses growing wild overlooking the harbour
During spring and summer, this grass bursts into life, growing quickly with the first rays of sunshine and blooming with wildflowers. Within weeks the uniform green grass becomes dotted with whites and yellows as the flower heads of daisies, dandelions, clover and buttercups emerge.
Daisies and dandelion flowers
Buttercup up close
Dandelion ‘clock’ or seed head
Whilst some argue the area looks scruffy and should be brutally mowed down I think it is rather beautiful. Aesthetics aside these flowers undoubtedly provide a vital habitat and food source for many invertebrates, including various species of butterfly.
So far I have recorded five species here, the small white, common blue, small tortoiseshell, painted lady and most recently an orange tip.
Common blue on a red clover flower
Small tortoiseshell on a dandelion flower
On a warm day the verge hums with the buzzing of bees as they dart from flower to flower, feeding on nectar within and spreading pollen between plants as they go. A variety of species can be found here from tiny solitary bees to our more familiar bumblebee species.
A red mason bee among daisies
Leafcutter bee clinging to a buttercup
White-tailed bumblebee feeding on clover
Buff-tailed bumblebee with bulging pollen baskets on her rear legs
A tiny solitary bee covered with pollen. Possibly a small scissor bee?
Ladybirds too make a home among the grass and wildflowers, and appear to be thriving this year. All of the photos in this post were taken in this very same habitat. (Sadly before the arrival of my fantastic macro lens!)
Ladybird on a daisy
Numerous other species also rely on this wildflower patch including numerous species of flies & beetles, earthworms, wasps and spiders.
A tiny beetle on a blade of grass
A fly cleaning pollen from it’s legs
It’s not just small invertebrates which benefit here. Birds too also rely on the verge as a source of food, whether it be feeding on these insects or the seeds from the flowers themselves. As an added bonus the flowers also provide a beautiful backdrop on which to photograph the various species.
The jackdaw looks particularly striking against the bright white daisies and this may be one of my favourite photos!
Jackdaw foraging among the flowers
A starling, it’s head shining with green and purple iridescence
I can never resist getting a few photos of my pets among the flowers too!
Cali our fluffball
Kaiya the mongrel, always happy to be bribed into posing
Sadly it is only a matter of time before this habitat is gone, it won’t be long now before the council come and obliterate the flowers with one sweep of their strimmers. Where then will all the insects which rely on this habitat go?
If, like me you are keen to protect your own wildflower verges please visit https://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign/#campaign and send an open letter to your local council.
If you have a lawn or field with wildflowers, put away the mower and join the #NoMowMay campaign, allowing your little patch to grow wild and thrive!
Sadly not too long after the inevitable happened and the grass was cut. Now nothing remains but a bare grassy slope and severed flower stems. Whilst the grass and many of the flowers are resilient and will grow back soon enough it will likely take much longer for the bees and butterflies to return…
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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