Do we have a journo from the Grauniad among us?https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... cies-flora
In a ditch by a burger van on the A142 near Ely, Cambridgeshire, lives one of our rarest plants. It is the last natural home of fen ragwort, which shows its yellow flowers each summer despite being assailed by discarded coffee cups and the occasional burning car.
It’s the rarest of many plants for which roadside verges have become a last refuge. The fact that rubbish-strewn verges are home to more than half Britain’s flora – 809 species, according to the charity, Plantlife – is a stark sign of how we have trashed our environment, destroying 97% of wildflower meadows since the 1930s.
But we should cherish and celebrate this amazing, accidental habitat. Many verges are fragments of ancient meadows. Chalky motorway embankments are a machine-made flowery downland, while even the despondent-looking brown edges of regularly salted main roads have been adopted by coastal plants, such as Danish scurvygrass. For the 17 million people who commute by road, verges represent their best chance of encountering nature.
But Plantlife says many verges are neglected or cut far too early in the year. Some, of course, must be trimmed for road safety but verges are where wildlife and austerity are in perfect harmony. Everyone wins from a flower-friendly verge – from cash-strapped councils to the rare black hairstreak butterflies enjoying the blackthorn deliberately planted beside the M40.
The government and councils can save money by managing verges for wildlife – ideally only cutting them in late summer, or even sowing yellow rattle, a small flower that parasitises grass, so reducing growth. Burnley borough council has saved £58,000 a year from wildlife-friendly verge and park management.
This stuff is popular – 81% of the public back calls for councils to reduce cutting of verges and parks to help bees and wildflowers, according to a recent Friends of the Earth and Buglife poll. So if you happen to be an apparatchik currently rushing to write a manifesto for a struggling mainstream political party, a commitment to creating 100,000 miles of roadside reserves would be a cheap and imaginative dash of colour.