Coronavirus lockdown boosting UK wildflowers

Because of staff shortages, UK councils are not cutting roadside verges which is already boosting wildflower numbers and could be a ‘silver lining’ to the coronavirus crisis, says the charity Plantlife.

The UK has 238,000 hectares of road verges and for many wildflowers, these roadside mini-meadows are their main refuge. Over 700 species of wildflowers grow on verges, nearly 45% of our total flora.

Normally in early spring, UK councils go out with their mowers to cut verges, often just to provide a neat and tidy appearance. However, Plantlife says this has dramatically affected the health and diversity of these crucial habitats.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK last month, the charity reports there has been less spring verge cutting than usual, which is having big benefits to the environment.

Almost 300 local authorities have declared a climate emergency and Plantlife is calling on all councils to cut ‘superfluous cutting for good’ to bring down emissions from tractor mowers.

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist said: ‘In these incredibly challenging times and as horizons inevitably narrow, the wildflowers appearing on our waysides and road verges are an uplifting sight, contributing significantly to our wellbeing.

‘As we stay home to stay safe in these strange and difficult times an increasing number of people are discovering anew the beauty on their doorsteps and finding much solace in nature; those exercising daily on quiet lanes are recognising that well managed road verges provide an uplifting and heartening pop of vibrant colour that can lift even the weariest soul.

‘The research we release today demonstrates that less and later verge cutting regimes do not only benefit wildlife and our wellbeing but also contribute to the urgent need to address the climate emergency.

Kate Petty, Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign Manager added: ‘Verges are the last remaining habitats for some incredibly rare flowers like wood calamint.

‘We must redouble our efforts to save and protect these under-appreciated, yet abundant, strips. Thankfully the fix is startlingly straightforward: simply cutting verges less and later will save plants, money AND reduce emissions. We need to rewild ourselves and accept nature’s wonderful ‘messiness’’

Photo Credit – Plantlife

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Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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