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Flowers on the edge

Plantlife launches UK campaign to stop the devastating loss of wildflowers on our road verges

June 08 2012

© Beth Newman / Plantlife

© Beth Newman / Plantlife

Plantlife is calling on councils across the UK/Britain to better protect and manage road verges.

The campaign has been launched after the charity was inundated with complaints from both members and the public horrified and upset to see verges mown down almost as soon as the flowers appear, with many claiming it’s nothing short of vandalism.

Chief Executive, Victoria Chester says “What’s not to like about a road verge full of wild flowers? Beautiful, culturally significant, colouring our towns and countryside alike and heralding the changing seasons."

" What’s not to like about a road verge full of wild flowers? Beautiful, culturally significant, colouring our towns and countryside alike and heralding the changing seasons. And yet, they are under attack..."

Victoria Chester, Plantlife Chief Executive

"And yet, they are under attack: flowers are routinely being mown down in full bloom, or sprayed off with poisons as ‘weeds’ and smothered with cuttings. Over time, only nettles and coarse grasses can survive this onslaught. As the flowers disappear, so does the verge’s value for wildlife."

"And we lose something too; knots of primroses and violets in early spring, the patriotic red, white and blue of campion, stitchwort and bluebells, or the midsummer golds and purples of orchids, columbine or lady’s bedstraw. These flowers, with us since the last ice age, are on the edge – it’s time to cherish them.”

What’s the problem?

Councils are mowing verges in their care too early, too often and leaving the cuttings to lie. A Plantlife survey revealed that more than 75% of the councils we contacted cut their verges multiple times over the spring and summer, with not one of them collecting cuttings as part of their routine management.

What’s the result?

Flowers are being cut before they can set seed and then smothered by the cuttings which, as they rot down, add nutrients to the soil - just like applying compost to the garden. Unfortunately, most wild flowers thrive on poor soil. Only species like nettles, docks and coarse grasses benefit from this type of management.

Why does this matter?

  • Today, there is about 3 times more grassland on our road verges than there is left in the countryside. This means that they are becoming a vital last refuge for our wildflowers of meadow and old pasture.
  • With the loss of our natural meadows, so the wildflowers on road verges play a vital role as a food source for pollinators; six species of bumblebee have declined by 80% in the last 50 years, with 71% of butterflies also on the decline.
  • If flowers are left to set seed, this is not only good for their survival but also provides a valuable food source for birds and small mammals. A healthy road verge is a vital wildlife corridor in an intensively managed landscape.

The solution? Cut less, cut later

We need to manage these ribbons of grassland just like we do our historic hay meadows, with one cut at the end of the summer and the cuttings collected.

Have your say

Tell us about the verges in your area on our Road Verge Campaign website. Rate your council, send a photo for our gallery, sign our petition, send a letter of protest and more! Just click on the link below:

To find out more about the campaign, hear what our celebrity supporters think, or talk to an expert, please contact: Justina Simpson on 07833 700 177 or