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Celebrating Scotland’s road verges

Scottish verges are home to over 550 different species of wild flowers and are one of the most frequently viewed habitats in the country.

August 08 2016

Flowering road verge on the Isle of Harris © Deborah Long/Plantlife

Flowering road verge on the Isle of Harris © Deborah Long/Plantlife

For lots of people, the flower-filled verges they see on their daily commute or trip to the shops are their main contact with nature.

Plantlife estimates that 556 species of wild plants are found on Scottish road verges, including highly threatened flowers such as spignel (Meum athamanticum) and greater butterfly-orchid (Platanthera chlorantha). This equates to half of all Scotland's wild flowers. Road verges also constitute one of the most frequently seen habitats in Scotland, giving millions of people every day direct contact with the changing seasons and colours of the countryside. Road users are also given a seated view into the astonishing changing landscapes and habitats of Scotland, from forests to moors.

In addition, 88% of these verge plants provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, making road verges essential refuges for insect life; bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 132 species of insect.

The good news is that Scotland's 9,386 ha of rural verges appear to be flourishing this summer and providing swathes of natural colour on Scotland's roads for its users to enjoy and providing a valuable haven and food bank to the country's wildlife. From primroses, which were voted Scotland's favourite wild flower, in spring, to swathes of meadowsweet and ox-eye daisies in out in summer, not to mention marsh orchids and devil’s-bit scabious that are also currently flowering, our verges are home to a huge variety of wild flowers and consequently a host of diverse wildlife.

Dr Deborah Long, Head of Plantlife Scotland, explains, “Scotland's road verges are stunning, especially at this time of year when if you’re lucky you can spot melancholy thistle, ragged robin and meadow cranesbills. With a closer look you’ll see even more, brightening your journey. It’s not just us enjoying the knapweed and scabious – bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies are there too and reminding us all how important it is we recognise and celebrate our road verges. I’m proud to have these species growing here for everyone to enjoy on their everyday journeys to work or school."

Plantlife Scotland are asking the public to capture the beauty of our road verges by taking a picture and uploading it to share on Twitter and Facebook.