WILD FLOWERS-WHO NEEDS THEM?
Insects do - they live on the sweet secretions of the plants(and pollinate them as wel), Birds, particularly migratory ones, eat the insects, and birds of prey (not the Clingon spaceship variety) eat the insects too but also eat the smaller birds Thanks to our wonderfully efficient agricultural system- that produces half of the food we eat- there are only 2-3% of our country’s wildflower meadows left, the rest have been herbicided out of existence. The CWCT is going to make a contribution to reversing the decline by leaving part of the Trust land as a wildflower area but, of course, it is only a tiny fraction of what is needed. Still, with the land at Holdens Way (Batty Piece and Eastfield) together with the enormously good work Henry Lang does with his wild flower meadows, Curry Rivel and Hambridge Parishes make a good contribution to the wild flower meadows of Somerset. If every Parish had a similarly dedicated band of conservationist then wild flower meadows would be on the way back.
The pictures show Alan Cockerell, Sylvia Goodenough, Elizebeth Antliff-Clarke and Catherine Mowat setting up one of three 6m x 4m trials on the Trust land to find the best way to get our wild flower area started. We had a good showing of pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidais) last year that were dormant in the soil and, once ploughing stopped, reappeared. Orchids have tiny seeds but they seem to be very long lived. Despite us (British people) thinking orchids are exotic they are the largest group of plants on the planet in terms of number of species. They are found in huge numbers in the tropics and grow in association with fungi in the soil. This is a common theme as we are finding more and more evidence of plants and fungi depending on each other to grow. Our 3 trial plots will have three treatments in each, arranged so that each treatment occupies the middle, left and right sides of the plot once. Treatment one will have grass cut very low and wild flower seeds added, treatment two, grass very low and soil scarified (roughed up) before sowing seeds and treatment three will have the vegetation completely cleared before breaking up the soil and sowing the seed.
We will look to see which treatment produces the greatest number of wild flowers. It’s pretty obvious that the first option is the cheapest and the third very expensive! I hope you will be interested to see what happens - you will see the plots marked out on the field, please keep dogs off them as an extra dollop of fertiliser will bias the results!
Watch this space for more results and lists of the wild flowers we sow.