25th May 2020

As we bask in the lovely May bank holiday sunshine there really does seem to be some light ahead with lockdown gradually being “unlocked.” For those of us who have no garden our local parks are looking great and you may have noticed that a few areas have been left uncut. These areas are left to allow the spring bulbs to develop for next year but also, increasingly, to allow more wildflowers to grow in mini meadows.

These meadow areas are hugely important for plants, invertebrates and the small birds which feed on them. They also have huge importance in the fight against climate change; each meadow area holds a lot more carbon that the neatly cut areas of our parks. We can strike a nice balance between leaving areas for the wildlife and for the planet, whilst still leaving areas for us to walk and play.

In my own garden meadow the dandelions have finished flowering and their seed has blown away in the wind. It is now the time for the buttercups, the bedstraw, with its minute white star like flowers, and the grasses.

Buttercups are one of my favourites. There are several species which grow in our meadows, the most common being the Creeping Buttercup, and they have the Latin name Ranunculus, which is just good fun to say! I remember that as children we used to pick the flowers and hold them underneath our chins. If there was a yellow glow then you liked butter! The fact that all of us liked butter anyway didn’t occur to us!

The grasses are an amazing group of plants. We normally just see them as the background plant in our greenspaces; green and needing a cut every few weeks. In fact, there are dozens of different species and as far as our food supply is concerned they are the most important plant in the world. Rice, wheat, barley, in fact most our most important food plants are grasses, and of course our meat relies on grass as well.

In my greenspace I have a number of species, all of them common, which have names like Creeping Bent, Soft Grass, Hairy Brome, Wall Barely and Rough Meadow Grass. On the North Downs there are species, such as Upright Brome and Tor Grass, which only grow on the dry chalky soils, and you can find these in the Horsted Valley or on Darland Banks. There is also one species called Timothy! This was probably named after an American famer, Timothy Hanson, who took it to New England in the 18th Century, as a fodder crop for cattle. It has a long dense flower head and is often called Cat’s Tail as well.

As you can see I have fondness for grasses and once you start looking closely at them I am sure you will as well!

That’s all for now. Stay safe and don’t travel too much unless you have to!

Simon

 

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