Picture a meadow of colourful flowers, buzzing bees and butterflies.
It’s a quintessentially British scene, but it’s in decline around the country – and without wildflowers, entire ecosystems are at risk. So what can we do to help?
What’s so special about wildflowers?
Wildflowers and wildflower-rich habitats, such as meadows, provide valuable support for insects and other wildlife.
Pollinators – bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps and more – rely on wildflowers as a vital source of food. In turn, 60 to 80 per cent of the world’s flowering plant species rely on animals to pollinate them, including many of our important food crops. Insects that feed on wildflowers also provide a food source for other animals and help to reduce the numbers of pests like aphids that attack crops.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that works for us all – the more wildflowers there are, the more diverse pollinators they can support, and the more healthy crops we can grow.
Wildflowers also support the soils they grow in, keeping them stable in the face of rainfall – and their impact on our wellbeing can’t be ignored either. Spending time in beautiful, wild surroundings is a proven antidote to the stresses of modern life.
What are UK native wildflowers?
Wildflower species that are naturally found in the UK, rather than introduced from elsewhere, are known as UK native wildflowers.
From cowslip and selfheal to ragged robin and devil’s-bit scabious, the names of UK native wildflowers reveal their long history in the folklore and culture of Britain. Native wildflowers are especially important as many of them have adapted to grow in our climate and environment over hundreds or even thousands of years.
They have evolved alongside other native wildlife – developing petal shapes, sizes and colours that are particularly attractive to specific pollinators.
But our native wildflowers are in decline. Since the 1930s, we’ve lost 97 per cent of UK wildflower meadows, through changes in farming methods and the development of land for property.
Since the 1930s, we’ve lost 97 per cent of UK wildflower meadows
Why are wildflowers under threat?
Over the past 70 years, a move towards larger-scale, intensive farming, combined with increasing urbanisation, has led to the destruction of wildflower habitats across the UK.
The wildflower–pollinator relationship is crucial. When one side benefits, so does the other – and when one side struggles it can have massive repercussions for the entire ecosystem. With fewer wildflowers growing in isolated patches, our pollinators are struggling, often left stranded without nearby flowers to move on to. And fewer pollinators means fewer flowering plants.
The more wildflowers there are, the more diverse pollinators they can support, and the more healthy crops we can grow.
How can you support UK native wildflowers?
First of all, help us spread the word about why wildflowers are important! Share this page with your friends and followers. Pick your favourite fact and share it with a stranger.
Large wildflower meadows of UK native species are the best thing for supporting insects and animals. While we can’t create these in towns and cities, growing wildflowers in small spaces is still important, providing support for pollinators in areas where food and shelter are scarce. Green spaces in urban areas can also help our health and wellbeing, both as individuals and as a community.
You can volunteer with a group near you on a community project, or why not try growing wildflowers in your own garden, or even on your windowsill?
Becoming more knowledgeable about wildflowers is another great way to celebrate and support them. Take our quiz to learn more.