Verges of colour

Verges of colour

Many of our roadside verges were left to grow this May and June, allowing wildflowers to bloom and provide a much-needed source of food for pollinators. Depending on your location these floral verges can be home to rare plants. Seeds can reappear from the soil banks after years of over-management and mowing in a quest for ‘neatness’.

A study by Plantlife showed that over 700 species of plant can be found on roadside verges around the UK, from the common, such as clover, to the rare and protected, such as lizard orchids. When verges are left unmown there are often adjacent habitats that can be important for wildlife too. This may include hedgerows, damp ditches and woody scrub. The soil will play a large part in determining which species of plants grow on the verges.

Some of the showiest flowers are ox-eye daisies. Their bright white petals give it another name of moon daisy, as they seem to glow later in the day. the large yellow centre is a favourite for hoverflies searching for nectar.

The bluey purple flowers of meadow crane’s-bill, a type of geranium, are also a common sight on roadsides. The long, pointed seed heads are said to give the plant its name, and the leaves also turn a rusty red in autumn.

Low-growing bird’s-foot trefoil, or ‘eggs and bacon’ is an important plant for many caterpillars, including those of the common blue butterfly, which eat the leaves. The yellow and orange flowers are also great for pollinators.

Ensuring roadside verges are left unmown early in summer is vital to ensuring these flowers survive and provide food for pollinators. Cutting is clearly necessary in some places to ensure safety on the roads the verges border, but ultimately leaving our roadsides unmown for the majority of the year can save money and look beautiful. Cutting once in late summer allows seeds to fall and germinate and, if possible, collecting the cuttings removes nutrients, allowing flowers to grow well rather than grasses. Sowing wildflowers seeds is unnecessary, as this is expensive and mixes often contain non-native plants. Many verges will have a natural seed bank in the soil.

These small oases in the desert of the road network must be cared for as the important places for wildlife they have become.

Sign Plantlife's petition asking your council to manage road verges for wildlife