Wild Flowers. What are they?

We know that wild flowers are hugely important to a wide range of wildlife, however do we know what the term “wild flowers” actually means? We are able to buy “wild flower seeds” from garden centres so what’s actually in there?

On one hand the term “wild flowers” could describe any flower that is growing freely without human intervention. If this were true though it would go against the notion that we could buy “wild flower seeds”. So instead we can regard Wild Flowers as commercially available packs of flowers that aim to replicate flowers that naturally cultivate in wild places such as hedgerows and meadows. The issue, of course, it that many of these flowers have particular habitats which are favourable to them, so it is unnatural for you to find such a full mix of different flowers in the same place. You can get annual wildflowers such as poppies and cornflowers and also perennial wildflowers such as buttercups and daisies.

So why are they so important? Well they provide important habitats for pollinators, insects and other wildlife. They also can improve soil health, improve the quality of water and prevent erosion. They provide seeds and other food for wildlife and livestock, as well as reducing the impact of drought. Without wishing to suggest that anyone of these is “more” important than the others, the fact that over 30% of food crops require pollinators does underline the importance of creating natural spaces which are attractive to bees, butterflies and other flying insects.

Many of us are donating parts of our gardens to wild flower areas, and although this is a good thing, we should be encouraged to research the sort of flowers that might be best suited, and most native to our individual gardens rather than just sprinkling down a mixed pack of wild flower seeds from the garden centre. A good local garden centre will be able to advise further on this.

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