Meadow yellow

Meadow yellow
Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in a Devon meadow

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Close shave for Twayblades

Today I went to look for a local green orchid, the Common Twayblade (Listera ovata). It is probably named “from Old Norse, since the modern Swedish name is Två Blad - two leaves” - Typically plants have two dark green oval leaves (1).

This particular plant has been saved from the ‘cut’ by a local botanist, having been topped a few weeks ago by a council mower. It has been protected from further damage with sticks and tape. Our Council seems to have a growing obsession with scything our local roadside verges and hedgebanks. Maybe people prefer green grass monotony or barren banks scraped to the earth. Clearly there needs to be some maintenance, but why so zealous? What is sacrificed for this ‘clean’ countryside approach is a razzmatazz of wild flowers. The plants that have adapted to this manmade habitat are many of our woodland flowers utilising the shade of hedgerows or overhanging trees, and other meadows plants
using the more open aspects. These plants also provide food and cover for many of our invertebrates. Locals have also spent the last seven years protecting a ‘colony’ of Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) moths on the verge opposite to the Twayblades, feeding on the richness of Knapweed, Trefoil and Vetches.

However we are in danger of losing much of this bonus biodiversity. It takes up to 15 years for a Twayblade plant to reach maturity from seed(1), making it hard to rectify damaging actions. Ironically there is evidence that the Common Twayblade rather enjoys manmade habitats(2), but I doubt this is true where the ‘countryside hairdressers’ are allowed to run riot with their blades.

(1) Britain’s Orchids (
(2) Nowicka-Falkowska, K. (2002) Ecology of selected populations of Listera ovata (L.) Br. from Siedlce environs. Acta Scientiarum Polonorum - Biologia, 1(1): 23-32

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