Biodiversity in Action

Environment & Biodiversity, Info, News

Weed or wildflower?
Whether you take pride in manicured lawns, or revel in the idea of ‘No Mow May’, how do you decide whether the small plant growing amongst the blades of grass is a weed or a wildflower? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, wildflowers are “any flowers that grow without having been planted by people”. Weeds on the other hand are defined as “any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place, especially in a garden or field where it prevents the cultivated plants from growing freely”.

So why am I talking about this? Well, Greening Steyning’s Life on the Vergeproject is working to to increase the diversity of plants and wildflowers on our verges. The currently unused spaces along our roads could be home to cowslips, yarrow, orchids and many other plants which form the basis of our local food chain. Pollinating and plant-eating insects rely on diversity to survive, grass alone will not sustain them. In turn they pollinate our gardens and allotments and support a host of bird and mammal species which we are privileged enough to live alongside.

At first an un-mown verge can look a little untidy with plants that may, in other circumstances, be called weeds. However, over time they will start to develop with new and interesting flowering plants which are so vital to our local wildlife.

We achieve this change very simply by reducing how often the verges are cut, to once, or possibly twice a year, and removing the cuttings when they are cut. Removing the cuttings helps to reduce the fertility of the soil which will limit the growth of grass and support more wildflower growth. Have a look at the projects we have started; visit the top of Shooting Fields in Steyning (by the Church) and the corner of Bramber roundabout at the bottom of Clays Hill. It is early days but we hope to have verges that bring wildflowers, butterflies and bees into the heart of our community.

You can get involved by writing to the County or Parish Councils to support the project or by joining us as a volunteer for a few hours this summer when we rake the cuttings. Please do get in touch: lifeontheverge@greeningsteyning.org.

We are also happy to discuss new verge projects in your area if you and your neighbours are interested.
Last year we made a documentary film explaining the project and featuring many of our helpful volunteers. It’s about 3 minutes long and can be found on the Greening Steyning YouTube channel. Click the link below to watch.