Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Fighting with flowers

I think wild flowers could be one of the most important weapons in the campaign to get more people to care about the natural world again.

There's the fact that we call wild flowers 'wild'. We don't say 'wild insects', or 'wild birds', in quite the same way. But every time we say 'wild flower', especially when we see one in an urban setting,  it's a small reminder that tiny pieces of wilderness can still be found everywhere.

And we can all name some of them. I'll wager that even the most diehard urbanite can name at least five wild flowers - daisy, dandelion, buttercup, bluebell, cow parsley. It makes all of us naturalists - people who can recognise wild things.

I do believe the naming is important - though I realise this is controversial. Some would say it's elitist, exclusive. You don't have to know something's name to find it interesting, beautiful, worth saving. But if plants were people, the first thing you'd do if you wanted to get to know them better would be to find out their names. We know the names of all our friends. And plantlife, in fact wildlife in general, definitely needs friends.

So when I was reading something wildflower-writer Sarah Raven wrote recently, describing how her father had taught her how to 'botanise at 30mph' while driving along in the family car, I had an idea.  For many people, road verges, rail embankments, car parks and kerbsides are some of the key places they see wild flowers. Wouldn't it be great if, in addition to the brain-addling GPS and smartphone apps, they had WFI (Wild Flower Identification) apps, which could point out and name the wild flowers along the route? Or perhaps rail companies could place ID guides in each carriage, showing all the flowers to be seen on the journey?

If people got to know their local wild flowers better, learnt their names, knew when they flowered, it would be a breakthrough. No-one could stand by and see a friend disappear.


  1. Hi Sue, just found your blog.
    Love the idea of trains having wildlife identification guides. Maybe it would make people look up from their Iphones/Ipads etc.

    1. Thanks Janet. Maybe it's something Plantlife could work up with the train companies! When I commuted to London years ago watching the changing colours and patterns of the plants on the railway embankments was one of the things that helped me through the very boring journey.