Let’s look after Sidmouth’s wealth of widlflowers

A bee on a foxglove. Picture: Ed Dolphin

A bee on a foxglove. Picture: Ed Dolphin - Credit: Archant

This week, the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group’s report focuses on the importance of wildflowers in sustaining wildlife.

Knapweed. Picture: Ed Dolphin

Knapweed. Picture: Ed Dolphin - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth’s hedges and lane sides are alive with a wealth of wildflowers, but we cannot take them for granted.

Members of the new Sid Valley Biodiversity Group are keen to promote as many natural species as possible in the valley, and not just wildflowers.

Nature is a complex web and plants are the anchors that hold it in place, they are the foundation to food chains. Flowering plants, including their leaves and roots, provide direct food for many animals such as bees, slugs and caterpillars, and other animals feed on these in turn. The wider the range of plants in our environment, the wider the diversity they will support.

In 1836, Horace Mogridge wrote a guide advertising the beauty of Sidmouth, and he included a list of the wildflowers and other, non-flowering plants such as ferns, and where you could find them. He listed over 200 flowering plants in all.

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Most of Horace’s wildflowers can still be found around the valley, especially the hedgerow plants. Volunteers from Sidmouth Arboretum have recorded 120 different flowering plants during the hedgerow survey they started in April. Some of the early flowers such as the celandines and bluebells have come and gone, and the foxgloves and dog roses have taken their place. Several members of the dandelion family punctuate the grassy verges. Don’t dismiss them, they are important nectar sources for insects, and goldfinches enjoy their seeds. Often overlooked are the less showy flowers such as the docks and the plantains, but these too play their part in nature’s web.

We can still find wildflowers if we look, but they need our help. The Biodiversity Group will be working on plans to increase the space for wildflowers. They hope to be working with local farmers to make the hedgerows even richer in wildflowers, and local gardeners who can make room for a wild area. Friends of The Byes are doing a wonderful job with their wildflower meadows. Hopefully, all local councils will join Dorset in their scheme to mow roadside verges in a way to let the flowers grow. There are many good things coming.

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