Wildlife in danger


It could be just me, but I cannot see them anywhere this year. Is it just a bad year or are the wild foxgloves dying out? Normally there are flowers all around Oak Meadow hedges, especially the one facing east. But this year there is not one foxglove there. Also, come to think of it, I have not been able to find any foxgloves as I drive the country lanes.

Are foxgloves endangered? How do we find out about wildflowers and their conservation status? There is the RSPB for birds and the RSPCA for animals but what about wildflowers? There does not seem to be a Royal Society to protect them. There is Natural England and the corresponding groups for the rest of the UK, with the Wildlife Trust but there does not seem to be a specific Wildflower Trust.

The presence of wildflowers tells us a great deal about how we are caring for the land. I went to Whixall Moss yesterday which is an important peatland. There were lots of flowers and of course insects and birds. I have not been out much, so I was nervous walking the canal path with other people. I turned my back on them (never mind the new Country Code for now) because of COVID, but no one seemed to mind, and some called out a cheery ‘hello, nice day’.

Going to Whixall Moss reminded me of how much we use peat in our gardening especially in plant pots. It is such a good growing medium. We have been peat free here at home, for some years, but it is difficult. Even the best firms often include a percentage of peat in their potting compost. The government says that we should stop using it by 2030, we were supposed to stop using it by 2020 but we failed.

I think, perhaps, most of us simply do not know the damage peat extraction causes. But going to the North Shropshire peatland, was a sobering experience and convinced me that it must not be lost. I sat and watched as the insects buzzed by my face and the birds called and the flowers dazzled in the sun. I suddenly saw the brimstone butterfly, with its buttery-yellow wings. It was the male and will not live long now that the female has laid her eggs. The caterpillars will need to eat the leaves of alder buckthorn, which in turn needs the wet acid soil in Whixall Moss.

The Butterfly Conservation group tells us that all is well if you have lots of butterflies and moths in your garden. But here, at home, the bumblebees will miss sweet nectar from the foxgloves.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

Not a good year for foxgloves?


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