Plantlife launched our campaign ‘Flowers on the Edge’ yesterday morning on BBC Breakfast… and the response has been terrific. But one in particular interested me – it was from Mike Jones at the Local Government Association quoted on the BBC website.
"However, councils must strike the right balance between road safety and wildlife," he said.
We agree, and many do already.
"Keeping road verges well maintained ensures that motorists have a good line of sight and allows pedestrians to walk more safely alongside busy roads.”
Yep, agree again.
"It also prevents weeds and foreign species from spreading into private gardens."
I wonder what Mr Jones thinks of when he says weeds? Cheerful dandelions – wide open, mini sunshines; round, yellow plates of food for pollinators? OK, we know dandelions aren’t popular with everyone – let’s try again. How about ox-eye daisies? Or bright blue speedwell (the name just shows how long it has been on our waysides) or glossy buttercups, delicate ladies’-smock, red and white campions or the froth of cow parsley? Violets, primroses and cowslips? Are these weeds or wild flowers?
BUT, if we carry on repeatedly mowing our road verges and leaving the cuttings then yes, you will lose these wild flowers and end up with an abundance of coarse grasses – the equivalent of green concrete to wildlife.
The second part of the point is also interesting – mowing verges prevents foreign species from spreading into private gardens. Most gardens are full of foreign species – even plants we think of as integral to the classic cottage garden, such as lavender. The flip of that is that most garden centres are full of what are really wild flowers - foxgloves, hellebores or fritillaries for example. And of course not forgetting the classic box bush, whiich is under threat in the wider countryside - its natural home. Here’s another stat – more than 60% of invasive plant species causing problems in the countryside originate from gardens…
But coming back to road verges. Safety is one thing. The seemingly wanton destruction of a vital and beautiful part of our natural heritage is another. With 97% of meadows gone, do we really want to erode the ribbons of what’s left, cut, by cut? Ironic when you think of the current vogue for wild flower meadows in our gardens. Let’s join the dots… A well managed, flower-rich road verge is the linear equivalent of a wild flower meadow. And it’s just there by the roadside for us all to enjoy…
Save it with flowers.