In the U.K, Less Mowing Means More Flowers

Wildflowers grow along a road in Charltons, England. colingrice/

In the United Kingdom, those grassy strips next to the road or the sidewalk are usually mowed four or more times a year for aesthetic reasons, but new guidelines call for a fresh approach: cutting them only twice a year, saving time, money and most importantly, the wildflowers and habitat they provide for wildlife.

The recommendations for verges, as they're called there, were provided by the wildlife charity Plantlife and have been backed by highway agencies, contractors and other wildlife organizations.

"Over 700 species and nearly 45% of our total flora are found on our road verges, and considering we've lost 97% of our wild flower meadows since the 1930s, these crucial habitats need to be properly managed," reads a statement on the Plantlife website.

This roadside vegetation provides important wildlife corridors, helping provide a path for animals to travel "an increasingly fragmented countryside," The Guardian points out. "But there has been a 20% decrease in floral diversity on road verges since 1990, in part because of overzealous cutting."

Mowing only twice a year would give plants time to replenish their seeds while restoring floral diversity and, of course, saving money for the government.

The new guidelines will cover more than 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) in the U.K. and will help some endangered plants such as fen ragwort, burnt orchid and rampion bellflower.

As part of the recommendations, no new wildflower seeds will be planted on the verges. Plantlife says sowing generic mixes of wildflower seeds doesn't help conserve the flowers that are already there and can threaten native flora. Planting flowers that are right for pollinators can be costly and take a lot of work to keep up.

Instead, they say that simply cutting them less often and at the right time will give native plants the best opportunity to flower and reseed. "Given the chance to spread, verges will be full of life again before too long,"