Butterflies are a lot less common than 30 years ago - Credit: Ed Dolphin
Butterflies are a lot less common than 30 years ago – Credit: Ed Dolphin

As Rodgers and Hammerstein said, June is busting out all over, or it was for the volunteers of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group as they carried on their project recording the wild flowers in the valley. 

The volunteers note which wild flowers they see when out walking and in June they recorded 195 species, 85 of them seen for the first time this year. Since January, the group has recorded more than 278 different wild flowers across the valley.

Orangetip on garlic mustard
Orangetip on garlic mustard

If you walk around the Sid Valley, you can see the celebrity species such as orchids in the fields and the ever-beautiful wild roses scrambling in the hedges, but the less known and less popular ones are just as important for the natural health of the valley.

One fascinating site that is walked past regularly is the churchyard wall alongside Church Lane. It is a stone wall with lime mortar, and it is a mini nature reserve with several plants that call it home.

One is the oddly named Pellitory of the Wall. This small plant with its insignificant flowers has been used as a herbal remedy for kidney and bladder stones, but there is no reliable evidence that it works. I first noticed Pellitory last month, now I see it all over town as I walk about. Volunteering for this project has been fun, but now I tend to walk about looking down at the ground rather than where I am going.

The Pellitory of the wall

The Pellitory of the wall – Credit: Ed Dolphin

Many people consider thistles as weeds, but they are a fascinating group and very important if you want to have the joy of butterflies. If you stand beside a thistle on a sunny day, you are guaranteed to see several pollinating insects visit within five minutes. 30 years ago you could have almost guaranteed that butterflies would be amongst them. That is no longer the case, there are far fewer butterflies around now. Members of the group hope that, as more people make a space for wild flowers, including thistles, the butterfly population will recover.

There is a full report on the June finds on the Group’s website, SidValleybiodiversity.org.uk.


Article by Ed Dolphin, originally published in the Sidmouth Herald.  
Images Ed Dolphin and Stefan Drew

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