‘Leave it and they will come’ is a good enough adage for how wildflowers settle in to an area; carried on a walker’s boot, dropped by bird, or blown on the wind, and finding a foothold in the poorer soils, typical of wasteland, railway cutting and roadside verge. And just when the flora is as pretty as a picture along come council contractors to mow and strim it all back to a neat, bare strip. The result is a mono-specied, nutrient-enriched environment of grass or bracken with barely a dandelion in bloom and the decimation of yet another wildlife niche.
At this time of year, the big white daisies of Leucanthemum vulgare have been succeeded by swathes of Wild carrot. I’ve not paid much heed to this wildflower before as the earlier flowering Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow Parsley) is my favourite white umbelliferae. On closer inspection however, Daucus carota is a dainty, frothy and intriguing biennial with its single blood-red central floret (not captured well here as the day was gusty). Intriguingly as it matures , the seed head curls in on itself , hence the bird’s nest epithet.
Boys looking for peashooters used to be warned about not mistaking Wild carrot for the poisonous and somewhat similar Hemlock and most children could identify the latter by its purple spotted (hence maculatum) stem and pungent smell of parsnips when crushed. When golden and dry by summer sun, the hollow stems of the umbelliferous Apiaceae family make marvellous blow pipes but are obviously harder to differentiate then. I wonder how many children these days know the difference or even if they have any interest in such games.
Whilst Wild Carrot and various feather-headed grasses dominate the meadow area, there are several other species tucked in here. Making up for the gangly unsightliness of Wild Chicory are the exquisite caerulean blooms whilst in the lower levels, cerise Greater and Black knapweeds, and the fluffy pink Creeping thistle thrive. The latter propagate by underground runners as well as seed dispersal but many wildflowers rely solely on being able to set seed for the following year. Hence it is these that are most badly effected by the wanton cutbacks of our wildflowers by tidy-minded councils.
The wildflowers growing here are not deep in the countryside but right in the centre of London’s Hyde Park (spot the red bus going down Park Lane). It just goes to show what can flourish when an area is seeded and left to its own devices. This is how our wildflower pockets should look and in order to save them from the ravages of an*lly-retentive councils, Plantlife have institued their ‘Road Verge campaign’. The insane tidy verge policy is being disputed with a cut less and cut later urging, whilst UK volunteers are being signed up to adopt and monitor a local verge in their area.
Lying Fallow: Contrary to both post title and King Lear quote, my own sanity is more or less intact but like the meadow, blogging here has been left uncultivated for a while. It’s almost a year since I ‘lost’ the garden and whilst making do with other activites has proved to be a great release it is not without a sense of grievous disatisfaction. I’ve never been a dedicated window shopper and there are only so many gardens and flower beds I can gaze at admiringly without the urge to plot, plan and cultivate a space of my own. As such I’m remiss with visits to blogging friends whilst enthusiasm for plant posts has naturally dwindled.
My neighbour’s courtard garden is still a work in progress and I hope to do a catch up post for a Dozen for Diana’s meme before too long, as well as revisit the three fateful sisters of Old St Pancras for a Wych Elm tree post. Meanwhile I’ve turned 60 and not quite gone to seed.