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Say it with wildflowers this Christmas

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Posted: Thursday 29th November 2018 by WildBlog

(c) Chris Lawrence

By Shaun Waycott, Avon Wildlife Trust Project manager at Feed Bristol

Winter is the perfect time to think ahead to next summer’s flowerbeds, planters or window-boxes. What about planting wildflowers? Wildflowers are not only beautiful - they also play a life-giving role in nature. Their nectar and pollen are food for vital pollinators such as flies, beetles, butterflies and bees. And because the web of life is interconnected, wildflowers play a vital role for other species, too. Native wildflowers (native means wildflowers naturally living in the UK, not brought here by humans) are also food plants for moth, butterfly and other caterpillars.

In turn, these are often food for other creatures including birds. A pair of blue tits with a brood of ten chicks needs to find a thousand caterpillars a day! Native wildflowers are also the food for many species of invertebrate, birds, mammals and fungi living within and around the plant. Yellow-flowered Bird’s Foot Trefoil from the pea family of plants provides food for 160 species of invertebrate. Wild Strawberry provides for 51 species, Field Scabious for 26 and Devil’s Bit Scabious for 25. Many insects rely on a single species of food plant. For example, the caterpillars of the Small Blue Butterfly feed only on the developing flowers and seeds of the Kidney Vetch.

This is where the Avon Wildlife Trust and other like-minded organisations come in. Along with Buglife’s Urban Buzz project and South Gloucester Council, Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildflower nursery has recently supplied Kidney Vetch plants for a project at Bristol Parkway Park and Ride to increase habitat for the Small Blue Butterfly. Excitingly, its eggs have been seen on the plants. At Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildflower nursery at Feed Bristol, our demonstration areas show how wildflowers can be used in various situations from open sunny areas to more shady areas, ponds and green roofs.

We are also maintaining living seed banks funded by the Kew Wild Project enabling us to grow wildflowers from seed sourced from Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserves. These plants then provide seed to grow locally-sourced wildflower plants that are more adapted to the climate and ecology of this part of the country than say, seed sourced from the north of England. The nursery provides wildflowers for all sizes of project from gardens and allotments to school and community plantings and larger meadow plantings, often in conjunction with local charities, businesses, schools and other organisations. The UK charity Plantlife states that 1,370 species of insect rely on our most common meadow plants. However, these plants have become less common due to modern agricultural practices: 97% of meadows have been lost since the 1930s. By planting native wildflowers in your garden, allotment or even a few pots on a windowsill, you are helping reverse this decline.

Wildflowers can make a visible difference, as you will see from the species visiting and living on the plants. This could be a solitary bee, a stripy hoverfly, a caterpillar, a stunningly coloured dragonfly resting on a pond plant, or a goldfinch feeding on seeds from a Teasel seed head.

This year we’re selling wildflower nursery gift vouchers at £10 each which make the perfect Christmas present. You can come and collect six wildflower plants from Feed Bristol any time from now until the end of 2019 and our staff team will help you choose your plants. Go to to buy yours. Wildflowers - a gift that goes on giving.

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