The raw, unaffected beauty of wildflowers in a meadow has inspired artists, poets and writers for centuries. Ragged robin (Silene flos-cuculi), cowslip (Primula veris), cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) – their names are enough to stir the imagination.
Thought of by many as quintessentially British, the sad truth is that these habitats are increasingly threatened by urbanisation, intensive agricultural practices, invasive species and climate change. The sight of a meadow in full bloom is becoming rarer as wildflower populations fight for survival at the edges of motorways, footpaths and fields. Many of these wild flowers are related to crop species and losing them means that we lose the genetic diversity and useful traits which could build resilience in our crops and boost food security.
Their decline affects the entire ecosystem as the populations of bees and beetles they support dwindle, having a knock-on effect on birds and higher mammals. Since 60% to 80% of the world’s flowering plant species are animal-pollinated, losing wildlife can have disastrous and unpredictable affects on flowering plants, including crop plant species (of which 60% depend on animals for their pollination).
What is the countryside without flowers, birdsong or the frantic buzz of bees? To reverse this trend the UK Native Seed Hub is working to restore these damaged habitats and enhance UK biodiversity. The Millennium Seed Bank holds over 90% of UK species in long-term storage and a proportion of these will be grown from seed to support the reintroduction of these species to suitable sites throughout the UK. The Seed Hub also provides high quality seed stocks, advice and training to UK conservation and restoration projects, and is helping bring the beauty and value of our native plants to new audiences by supporting projects such as Grow Wild, which is already transforming unloved and disused urban sites into beautiful hotbeds of biodiversity.
Over the next few months, Wakehurst Place is hosting the Magical Meadows festival where you can celebrate the beauty and importance of meadows, learn about the traditions and wildlife that depend on them, or simply sit amid the flowers and read a good book under the shade of a tree.
During the festival you will be able to put your plant identification skills to the test with the wildflower challenge, take a ramble through the ancient woodlands and wetlands of the Loder Valley Nature Reserve, witness some old-school hay harvesting, and enjoy a glass of cider at the regional scything competition. There’s something for everyone. Come and see!
- Sarah -