Friday 14 June 2013

Wildflowers in the Yorkshire Arboretum

Ranunculus repens, Creeping Buttercup: a wonderful wild plant

Creeping Buttercups flourish in damp grassland and are contributing a great display to the arboretum at present.

One of my main thrusts at the Yorkshire Arboretum has been to start the process of converting the grassland of the vistas and between the trees, where possible, from coarsely mown grass to species-rich wildflower meadow. I am under no illusions that this will be a very long process, as much of the arboretum was formerly under intensive agriculture and is both biologically depleted and has rather fertile soil. But one has to make a start and in partnership with Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Charity, we have committed to creating as extensive an area of 'wildflower meadow' as possible on the site. We started in a conspicuous location last September, inviting visitors to the Wild About Wood festival to plant some plug-grown wildlowers in an area designated as future meadow. In warm wet soil they got away fast last autumn and are now established and coming into flower. A few thousand plugs don't make much impact in long lush grass, but they are there and will soon be sowing their own seed for the next generation.

The main display of wildflowers in the arboretum at present, however, is not from these, but from pre-existing plants that an adjustment to the mowing regime has permitted to flower. Outstanding is the much maligned Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens, which is creating great swathes of rich gold in many areas. It's certainly not desirable in the border, in its natural habitat of rich damp grassland it is magnificent. Several people have suggested to me that the buttercups are particularly fine this year - they are currently glorious, but they usually are! Elsewhere are pockets of other habitats with their own assemblages of plants, some of which are shown here.

Planting wildflower plugs last September.
Oxeye Daisies, Leucanthemum vulgare, in the wildflower meadow planted with plugs last September: establishment has been excellent.

As one of our horticultural lectures, Dr Paul Evans of Buglife spoke yesterday about the B-lines project to preserve and restore meadow habitats. It was not a warm evening.
A subtle carpet in the Sandbanks area of the arboretum, gowing on very sandy, acidic soil: Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis);  Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile) and Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Looking down Sata Vista from the Sandbanks: the division between sandy and clay soil is very apparent.

We are fortunate to have a small population of Southern Marsh-orchids, Dactylorhiza praetermissa, in the arboretum. They are just starting to flower.

Meadow Buttercups (Ranunculus acris) and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) contributing to the beauty of the arboretum. Cornus alba 'Aurea' in the background.


  1. Buttercups have their place and a swathe of gold is easy on the eye. However, in my little seaside plot they are annoying but more easily removed than in heavier soil.

  2. Thank you, John, for sharing so many beautiful flowers on your blog and now the wildflower meadow. I've loved buttercups and ox eye daisies from when I was a child.

  3. Seems like the word lovely to describe isn't enough..

  4. I remember there were lovely red campion in your neck of the woods when I worked in your village.


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