Teme Valley Musings, May 2020

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No Mow May! No, it isn’t a political slogan left over from last year, it’s the rallying cry of the wildflower charity Plantlife in an effort to increase the amount of nectar and pollen available to pollinating insects. (Although it did, weirdly, coincide with the departure of a certain Prime Minister in 2019.)

This project went under my radar at the time, but a recent copy of the Plantlife magazine reported the results of last year’s efforts with a promise to repeat the exercise this year, so I thought you might like to join in. Plantlife decided to harness “citizen science” to survey the flowers on people’s lawns. They know that ordinary people want to do what they can for biodiversity and, acknowledging that there are 22 million gardens in the UK, they realised that here was a huge untapped resource for sustaining pollinating insects.

They set up a project called “Every Flower Counts” in which they encouraged anyone with a lawn to leave their mower in the shed for May, then to count the number of flowers in a metre-by-metre square of their longer-than-usual grass. They suggested throwing a ball over a shoulder to use the point where it landed as the centre of the square. A fun way to ensure randomisation I thought, and one clearly designed to encourage children to get involved in measuring and counting in their own back-gardens. The results were then submitted to the Plantlife webpage, after which calculations were made and returned, as to how many bees your square of lawn could provide for.

The huge total of 495,676 flowers was counted. As you might have guessed, daisies, dandelions, buttercups and germander speedwell made up the greatest numbers. The results were then shared onthe BBC’s Gardeners’ World TV programme, in a feature on meadows. This prompted a follow-up survey in July. The commonest flowers at that time of year were white clover, selfheal and, to the surprise of Plantlife who thought it wasn’t so common in lawns, bird’s-foot trefoil. Out of more than 200 different plants recorded a few rarities popped up, including seven species of orchid and meadow saxifrage – all of which would otherwise have been mown down.

Well I hope I have spurred your interest in this project. The surveys for 2020 will take place between 23 and 31 May and between 11 and 19 July, so if you would like to take part, register your interest at www.plantlife.org.uk/everyflowercounts then you can put your feet up when you might have been mowing and get on your hands and knees to count those daisies at the end of May.