I recently received a plant list from Linda Wordsworth who had undertaken a plant survey of our local common in 2007/8. Our local common looks for most of the year (to the untrained eye) like a standard expanse of mowed grass.
Linda spent much of her time as a child documenting plants around the edges of the common and with fond memories of the area decided to return in 2007/8 to undertake a comprehensive plant survey of the whole common.
A previously recorded survey in 1985, archived at the Bucks and Milton Keynes Record Centre, had listed 80 plant species which included grasses. Linda decided to focus solely on flowering wild plants and did not include any grasses in her survey, which is why she was delighted to find 120 flowering plants on our common. Including some rare and recordable species.
Linda is planning on a return to the common this year to do a follow up survey and is also working on collating her findings with the photographic records she took in 2007/8. Her long term plan is to publish the findings and make it available to the public.
I think it’s an incredible undertaking and just goes to show that when you look out onto a piece of grass, don’t be fooled there could be a wild flower meadow just waiting to spring up. All you need to do is stop mowing between April and September and ideally remove grass clippings to reduce the fertility. In the last 3 years we’ve negotiated with the Parish Council and the very kind local farmer who mows the common for free, to mow later after the flowers have had chance to set seed. This also allows the moths, hover flies, butterflies and bees to gather nectar and pollinate the flowers. And we get to enjoy this lovely natural wild flower meadow. He also mows the common in two sections at different times to allow insects to migrate from the mowed section to the non mowed section. The numbers of flowers have increased and it will be interesting to see if the variety has increased, no doubt Linda will let us know.
Just think we could surround ourselves with beautiful patches of wild flower meadows in our parks, commons, town roundabouts, school and hospital gardens. Our housing estates and public open spaces could become buzzing, humming meadow lands instead of scrappy bits of mowed grass for dogs to foul.
So why not contact your local council or parish council, and see if they are willing to convert any of their public space to a wild flower area. If you’d like help or advice on how to get started please contact the Meadow Project.