To celebrate National Meadows Day this year here at RSPB Sandwell Valley we've created another wonderful wildflower meadow!
On the walk down to the Hide, just before you reach the Hugging Tree, there's a wooden bed full of gorgeous wildflowers and a patch of ground opposite that has been lovingly planted by our morning work parties. In the UK we have lost many of our wildflower meadows and it is vital that we continue the work of creating more of these precious habitats. So far this year we've planted out over 400 flower plugs into our wildflower meadow consisting of 30 different wildflower species - many thanks to Grow Wild Community Funding for this!
The flowers will provide our insect pollinators with a valuable source of nectar and pollen. Common wildflowers that you might recognise are corncockle, cornflower, chamomile, welsh poppy and field poppy, and buttercup. You might also find yellow rattle, birds-foot trefoil, and corn marigold in our meadows.
Take a closer look at some of the wildflowers you might see on the reserve below...
Cornflowers are one of the brightest meadow flowers around and their vibrant colour means they can be easily spotted in any meadow. Cornflowers love to live in full sun and flower from June to August. They used to be very common, but they've declined drastically over the last 60 years. Sewing seeds as part of a wildflower meadow means we can hope they might become a common sight once again. With electric blue petals, the cornflower is loved by bees (especially honey bees) and butterflies alike. It's also known as blue bonnet and witch's thimble.
Corncockles are little pink flowers that can grow up to 1 metre tall. Compared to the vivid red of the poppy and bright blue of the cornflower, the corncockle is a pretty inconspicuous plant and often lives unnoticed in wildflower meadows. They're quite rare finds in the wild but are common when sown purposefully in gardens and on nature reserves. You can see corncockles from May - September time.
Often mistaken for a daisy, the chamomile plant has lovely white petals and a golden centre. It's a great plant for any meadow as it reseeds itself meaning it'll come back yearly. Chamomile is a natural antibacterial and is often used to make herbal tea. The word chamomile actually derives from the greek word 'chamomaela' which means ground apple, due to it's refreshing apple-like scent. If you spot any chamomile in our meadows, why not take a minute to breathe in their aroma and see what you think they smell like?
A bright and cheerful yellow flower with toothed leaves. Corn marigolds can often be seen from June - October, and is loved by bees, butterflies and moths. It has been in decline since the 1930s, mostly due to liming and herbicides. Other names include golden cornflower and yellow bottle.
Field Poppies are broad-leaved, vibrant red wildflowers that often grow in disturbed habitats and cornfields. They usually first appear in mid-June and can then flower intermittently until October. The poppy is often used as a symbol of remembrance and has been since the end of World War One. Poppies have been admired by many people throughout history and have been mentioned in several poems like In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and stories such as The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
Our minibeast meadow was planted from seed and we hope to see it get better over the years. It was created from scrub grassland and planted with specific plants that would attract insects - specifically pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Many insects only lay eggs on one type of plant so it's important that we provide the right ones for them. Cinnabar moths for example love ragwort. Other minibeasts you might spot amongst the flowers include thick-legged beetle, burnet moth, large skipper, white-tailed bumble bees, common blue and meadow brown butterflies, and a variety of wasps and hoverflies.
The floristic diversity of our meadows will in time provide an exciting, colourful display which we hope will inspire our visitors in creating their own meadows big or small in their gardens, on allotments, or on their land. It’s not hard to do, and it’s something we can all do to benefit our wildlife and ourselves.
If you're interested in creating your own wildflower meadow our volunteers are always happy to have a chat. Next time you visit, why not have a wander down the path and see which wildflowers you can recognise.
Photography by Andy Purcell
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