Wildlife Column: How we can all help rewild our habitats, even at home
As a quick flowering short-lived perennial with a highly successful germination rate the ox-eye daisy is symbolic to many people of old meadows and wildflower grasslands.
Indeed, this is a strikingly beautiful marker of old hay-meadows and the like. However, it will occur elsewhere if it has a chance and can be a useful infill amongst other flowers in the wildlife garden. Simply seeded in the previous autumn ox-eye will come up wherever the opportunity arises. As such it may require a little bit of judicious ‘weed control’ to keep in from becoming too rampant.
Sown in along motorway verges and other roadsides the clouds of ox-eye daises are almost like summertime snowfall and can be a little bit of rewilding or re-naturing in these heavily constructed environments. I have also seen them used to great effect in new habitat creation schemes. This doesn’t compensate for damage to or loss of genuine ancient meadows but it certainly helps give nature at least a fighting chance.
In south Sheffield an idea which I put to Amey back in 2013 was to ‘create’ a linear nature reserve across the city east to west along the ring road. For reasons of finance and resources it seems this is now taking place and the flower-rich ‘meadows’ are being allowed to bloom once more. Clouds of yellow meadow buttercups now line the roads from the urban heartland to the edge of the Peak District; and we save money too.
The ox-eye becomes an ‘indicator’ of this biodiversity recovery as it responds to changed management from regular, routine ‘scalping’ to a couple of cuts per year and removal of a ‘hay-crop’. Extending this idea to other appropriate open spaces in parks and along roadsides we have a remarkable opportunity to put something back in nature and to provide a little joy for local people too.
We can even do this in our own gardens to help make a real difference to address the current ‘eco-crisis’.
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues, has a blog at https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com and is on Twitter @IanThewildside