Friday, 27 June 2014

The Wildflower Meadow

This is the Wildflower Meadow, which we have been gradually cultivating with native perennial and biennial plants. In the foreground is Echium vulgare, or Viper's bugloss, which is a member of the borage family that is a veritable magnet for bees. Just visible on the right-hand side of the picture is a Dipsacus fullonum, commonly known as teasel, which is starting to send its flower spike up into the air. Teasels are wonderful plants for wildlife, as they attract bees when in flower and, later in the autumn and winter, finches will visit to feed on the seeds. You can't see from this photograph, but if you go in person and take a closer look, you will be able to see Succisa pratensis, or Devil's bit scabious, developing flower-heads which open from late summer until mid-autumn. These provide both bees and butterflies with a late source of nectar and are also a larval food for the marsh fritillary butterfly. The Meadow's foxgloves are still flowering, but are nearing their end and going to seed, while the ragged robins (Lychnis flos-cuculi) have already gone over. While some may scoff and criticise this more relaxed way of maintaining the Oxton Fields, the areas are on the outskirts of the fields and provide a splash of colour and seasonal interest, as well as furnishing Oxton's insect population with nectar-rich plants and a much-needed habitat.

On the other side of Duck Pond Lane, nearer to Holm Lane, you can see that other areas of grass have been left unmown by the Council, to encourage the flourishing of native flora. The area above provides extra shelter for insects and small birds, the latter of which nest in the protective brambles and thickets beneath the tree. If you pass by, you will often spot these birds taking flight from the undergrowth! Below is a similar circle of unmown meadow, the grass of which is punctuated by clusters of red clover, sheep's sorrel and the brown, poker-shaped heads of plantain.

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