Next time you’re making a car journey, take a moment to appreciate the humble roadside verge, as you might find something surprising.
Far from being lifeless stretches of faded grass, roadside verges are incredibly valuable for biodiversity. Studies by Plantlife have found that road verges in the UK represent a last refuge for some of our rarest species of plant. However, mowing and management of verges presents a threat to these endangered plants. Plantlife have called for verges to be managed for wildlife to aid conservation efforts.
Plantlife found an incredible 724 species growing on road verges, with some species being found nowhere else. The top 10 threatened verge species are as follows:
- Fen ragwort
- Spiked rampion
- Crested cow-wheat
- Tower mustard
- Velvet Lady’s-mantle
- Yarrow broomrape
- Sulphur clover
- Wood calamint
- Welsh groundsel
- Wood bitter-vetch
Some of these species are now restricted to a single ditch in the wild.
In 2015, SongBird Survival supporter Eddie Bullimore lobbied Norfolk County Council to reduce verge cuts on rural roads to conserve the county’s wildlife, including songbirds.
Verge management such as flail cutting means that haws (hawthorn fruit) and rose hips are lost, and thistles are often cut before they can seed. It also endangers ground-nesting birds such as skylark. Thistle seeds are a favourite food source for goldfinch, whils
t fieldfares eat haws, and field mice, an important food source for barn owls, like to feast on rose hips.
Reducing the frequency of cuts means that plant species, and the other wildlife which relies on them such as insects, birds and small mammals, are able to thrive.
To find out more about good management of verges, download Plantlife’s Good Verge Guide here.