A recent article in the Guardian Newspaper (25th October 2011) stated that France was concerned at the decline of its wild flowers, particularly those associated with crops. That is those that grow amongst the crops like poppies and more so the ones along the edges of fields and on the hedge banks. These are the ones we are most likely to see as we drive along, or better, from the point of view of enjoying the flowers, if we walk or cycle.
According to the article 102 plants had been identified as being linked to the harvest and of those 7 had already completely disappeared from France and 52 were under threat. The article went on to link the disappearance of the wild flowers with the general reduction of biodiversity and someone called Frederick Coulon, who works for an organisation called Solago which is based in Toulouse and promotes sustainable energy and farming, blamed this on a recent increase in the use of herbicides. Unfortunately he went on to say that this decline in wild flowers would reduce insect populations and these were essential for the pollination of cereal crops. This is not so. Cereals are wind-pollinated and they do not rely on bees or other insects. However apart from this faux pas the article was good and it is a shame to hear that the fantastic variety of wild flowers in France is under threat.
I have always been particularly impressed with the rich biodiversity in this part of France, particularly the wild flowers and birds, but also mammals, butterflies, and other insects. This may in part be a product of its geographical location but I think it has a lot to do with the nature of the countryside which is not farmed anywhere near as intensively as where I come from in East Anglia. Partly this is down to the amount of available space, partly inheritance laws, partly the widespread use of wood as a fuel, and partly due to the population shift from the countryside to the cities. (I know the Brits have partly offset the latter).
A few days ago I photographed most of the wild flowers along a short section of hedgebank close to my house. There were over twenty in flower, and plenty more will be appearing over the next few months. Unfortunately there is good evidence to back up the Guardian’s article and had I turned right at the bottom of our road which borders cultivated fields then I would have struggled to notch up 5. I photographed both the florally rich hedge bank and the one that gets a dose of herbicide every so often for you to see the contrast.
If you are interested in the wild flowers I am starting to build up a collection of photos and they are on the page appropriately entitled Wildflowers of Poitou-Charentes. It will take time for it to become anything like comprehensive but if you want to identify something then this will become a useful resource. In the meantime I was having trouble identifying a little white flower that looks like a strawberry and finally found it on a site called ukwildflowers. It also covers all of Europe, so you have to plough through lots of little photos but it does have most plants.
Finally I do a post each month entitled ‘Flower of the Month’ in which I select one wild flower that particularly takes my fancy and present a few nice photos and an in-depth appreciation of it.