Since we started our Wildflower Project in 2020 we have seen some impressive results having left several verges and areas to grow throughout this summer. We counted 59 species of wildflowers and grasses on the Underriver verge and 24 on the Godden Green common. The bank on Childsbridge Lane has also been extremely biodiverse with wildflowers including lesser celandine, slender speedwell, red clover, creeping cinquefoil, starwort, vetch, lesser knapweed, common ragwort, autumn hawkbit, black horehound, spear thistle, yarrow and bird’s foot trefoil.
Ragwort has a bad name as it can be toxic to horses, but it is also home to the spectacular caterpillars of the cinnabar moth. We were pleased to find four caterpillars on two plants on the recreation ground. The larvae use the ragwort toxins to make themselves unpalatable, and the bright yellow stripes advertise the fact to potential predators. The moth overwinters as a pupa on the ground, hatching in the summer.
We also noticed gatekeeper butterflies feeding on nectar from the ragwort. These butterflies are common on grassland and their caterpillars feed on various grass species. The gatekeeper can be distinguished from the meadow brown as it has a small eyespot on each hindwing, whereas the meadow brown only has eyespots on the front wings.