A stroll along our woodland trail will bring you out in the Garden’s wildflower meadow. Although appearing unassuming at first, this is in fact one of the most biologically diverse areas in the whole Botanic Garden. The meadow forms a beautiful wild flower habitat, hosting scores of plant species which in turn act as food plants for butterflies, moths and many less familiar insects. All of this combines to make the wildflower meadow an essential stop on any tour of the Botanic Garden
Although our meadow is man-made, it forms the heart of our Green Management Plan for the Botanic Garden. Traditional methods are used to manage the meadow, combining mowing to remove hay and then grazing in autumn. This maintains a relatively low level of soil fertility that prevents grasses becoming too aggressive and allows many flowering plant species to coexist, creating the traditional flowery meadow.
To conserve our meadow we graze it with rare breed sheep, Manx Loghtan and Hebridean, from October to the middle of March. The Manx Loghtan is an ancient breed and is believed to have been native to the Isle of Mann for over 1000 years. These primitive sheep are ideal for conservation grazing, being more resilient to harsh conditions than modern breeds.
A complex web of species relationships exists within our meadow. For example, yellow flowered hay rattle, highly attractive to bumblebees, is a partial parasite on the grasses, draining energy from its host and preventing the grasses from dominating the vegetation. Meadow brown butterflies lay their eggs on grass species, small copper butterfly caterpillars feed on sorrel and the chimney sweep moth breeds on pignut. Birds of prey, such as kestrels, can easily spot and hunt their prey.
Download the Nature Trail
Suitable for young children, this activity teaches about the wildlife in the garden, allowing kids to colour in pictures of animals as they find them hidden in their natural habitats around the garden.