The Importance of Creating Native Wildflower Meadows
Updated: Mar 22
We at Our Cities Wild Islands planted our very first wildflower meadow at Wednesfield Park with high hopes of it blooming into a wonderful biodiverse habitat (like in the image above) containing many native species of wildflower.
The park itself is situated near the longest nature reserve along the canal in the west midlands, where unique species such as otters have been spotted. Perry Hall Park and other nearby areas have also recently been planted with trees as part of the mini forest's projects by Seven Trent and Wolverhampton city council. Our project aims to be another part of connecting communities to nature, to help store more carbon dioxide, and to increase insect biodiversity.
What do we mean by 'native species' and why are they important?
On the 14th of September 2021, we spread 24 species of native wildflower seeds and five species of grasses.
In simple terms, a native species is a species that normally lives and thrives in a particular ecosystem.
It's important to plant native species because they co-evolved to support surrounding ecological systems, including butterflies, bees, beetles, birds and other wildlife.
- Grounds Care Group
To produce a diverse wildflower meadow, you need to have a mixture of native wildflower species and grasses, so the mixture we used to plant at Wednesfield Park is suitable for bringing back the lost meadows. However in particular, there are some special species in the mix that require more detail to be mentioned due to their meaning and importance.
Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
Also known as the meadow maker, when this species begins to grow it will stamp out any weeds that are trying to overcome the wildflowers, making this species semi-parasitic. This allows more species of wildflowers to establish and set seeds in the future. When the flowers of yellow rattle begin to fade to brown, the seeds then ripen and when shaken you can hear seeds inside, hence why it's called “Rattle".
This species is also vital food for species of moths and will attract many more species of insects to the new meadow.
Although these were not part of the actual mix of seeds, we spread them in September on the launch day itself with the Staffordshire Regimental Association, to commemorate the loss of friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. When the poppies grow and flower, people can return and reflect on memories of past loved ones.
These are the other wildflowers and grasses that we seeded in the park.
· Common knapweed
· Greater knapweed
· Wild carrot
· Hedge bedstraw
· Lady's bedstraw
· Field scabious
· Oxeye daisy
· Musk mallow
· Black medick
· Ribwort plantain
· Salad burnet
· Yellow rattle
· Common sorrel
· Sheep's sorrel
· Pepper saxifrage
· White champion
· Bladder champion
· Common bent
· Crested dogs' tail
· Red fescue
· Smaller cats' tail
· Smooth stalked meadow- grass
When spring/summer arrives this year, we hope to see the wildflowers begin to grow and establish themselves, with a full bloom expected in 2023. When this eventually happens, we will identify the species and watch their progress with an aim to gain data from the pilot area and any other future areas to further educate the local communities and councils on the benefits of rewilding.
What are the benefits of bringing back wildflower meadows?
Wildflower meadows will allow species (plants and insects) to become popular again helping to enrich our cities with flora and fauna.
As a species, humans have become extremely disconnected from the nature; no longer needing to reply on our immediate ecosystem and instead looking to more industrialised processes to fulfil our needs and busy modern life. This disconnection over time has actually been linked to increases in mental health such as anxiety and depression and further exploitation of nature which has become sadly necessary to fuel the consumer culture we have created within today's society. By bringing back wildflower meadows, we can help to attract more species of bees and butterflies and hopefully enhance our ability to reconnect to nature and have a better understanding of it's importance. We will aim to educate the public and the local schools on the value and importance of wildflowers and insects which will pave the way to inspire a new generation that will take care of their local environments.
In addition to this, increasing the amount of land used for new wildflower meadows, the more carbon that can be stored, as wildflower meadows will store more carbon compared to mowed and baron grass. This also means councils will be able to decrease the amount of mowing they do annually for grass areas, meaning the money they can save, can be put towards more trees and wildflowers that can be planted or be used in other council projects.
This area has already brought the community together, on the launch day we had various members of political parties, local businesses, school groups, community groups, and members of the public who all came to help spread the seeds and join in learning about the term “rewilding”.
The benefits from a beautiful wildflower meadow include social learning and education, new community commitments, reconnection to our natural world, and emotional support. And that's just for us humans! For nature the benefits are endless and it's time we prioritise its needs to help replenish our natural world within our current climate crisis. After all, nature is not just something beneath our feet, it is something we are indeed a part of.