National Transport and Wildlife Corridors-Roadside Wildflora-Using Native Irish Wildflowers

 
 

Wildflowers for Irish Roadsides:

Extra files concerning Esker Management Plan for Co. Offaly


The following is a selection of text from our files regarding the road proposal. Sadly this plan was not implemented in full, as the County Manager changed positions and we only got to sow the flora. However the flora is growing well. See latest update

1. Consult with DoE. Duchas Wildlife Service and NRA. Include quarry businesses and other concerns. Prioritise Native existing floras for immediate conservation and protect with management plan.
Include ESA’s & SSSI and Outstanding Natural Heritage and beauty sites and flora and fauna species required by law to be protected. (Esker woodland at Rahugh & Clara bog are of international importance by law.)
2. A roadside landscape and conservation strategy could be developed to identify areas for specific planting and management. The region can be divided into Rural-Urban and high amenity-high conservation areas and different strategies drawn up to implement aims. 
The plan should include land use policy for roadside and council controlled areas.
3. An Environmental Impact assessment for flora should be carried out on the finalised plan. Planning Authorities can also protect flora by use of Special Amenity Area orders backed up by Conservation orders. The Council can also issue specific grants and should liaise with DOE and special conservation groups can be asked if they wish to help the Council manage the flora. However many are unskilled to deal with nationally important flora and must be supervised.

Conservation: 

Identify areas which are likely to be destroyed during road building and remove any important flora, much as the topsoil can be reused, especially on new roadsides and quarries.
Soil removal and replacement. All new roadway projects through eskers should have provision for the removal and correct storage of soils containing flora and a seed bank. Certain species can transplant well and should be carefully removed to new sites or to places where they can be re established back on to the finished roadside. Quarries should be contacted to save and provide the topsoil from Quarried Eskers to place back on finished roadsides. They could be encouraged to replace floras on the quarries and leave them in such a way as to encourage new floras after the quarry works are finished. Establish specific nature reserves or gene banks for the flora. Do not allow access or disturbance of these sites and keep management to a minimum to discourage the encroachment of tree and shrub.


Facilitation:

Define a plan and clear strategy for each process, adapt to specific sites and situations as project develops. Allocate a budget for plan, I suggest a percentage of current landscape and roadway budgets,
contribute to it from roadway capital expenditure, Include an educational element from elsewhere and seek funding from D.O.E. The total budget should be between 1-5% of total landscape budget as the flora is nationally and internationally significant and of potential commercial value for tourism and agriculture as some of the most common esker species are commercial crops in the herbal and pharmaceutical industry.

Review:

Examine all existing roadside plantings and draw plan to encourage esker floras and remove unsuitable species. Set conservation aims and re-assess the results in relation to the overall strategy and
benefit to the county. If in five years the perception and awareness of the public, industry and the tourist  is not happy with the results then revise the strategy according to the communities needs.

Involve Community resources and start education program.
Involve Schools, start a schools project for the county on the Eskers and the flora of the Offaly bogs. Education can be targeted at parents though school children. Involve Tourist projects, Golf Courses and
Bord Na Mona. Involve Quarry companies. Involve Co Council employees. If an awareness and pride can be developed amongst council workers When staff are working on esker projects, they may provide the extra care required. Involve Travellers, Choose a few trusted Traveller families and arrange the grazing of horses on the eskers within certain times to manage the flora and to protect the grassland from invasion of tree and shrub.

Create a brand Identity for the flora and fauna of the region, link it to a historical account of the importance of the old esker ridge route.

A brand Identity might include the old Irish word ‘EISCIR’ 

Identify areas of natural beauty and amenity purposes .
The flora and fauna of the Esker ridges of Co Offaly could be used to identify the region as a unique botanical region of Ireland. Roadside logos and signage could be used to develop an awareness of the
importance and beauty of the resource. 

Create a specific landscape-brand identity for the flora and fauna of the region, A particular type of roadside planting throughout the county would clearly brand the eskers and the county, The following list refers to eskers and limestone soils and not the acid peat found in Offaly. Shrub and tree planting throughout the county should always include those threes that are unique to the area such as Ash, Scot Pine, Hazel, Wild Cherry, Blackthorn, and midland forms of Hawthorn .

Introduced species can include Juniper, Beech, Lime, Italian Alder, Sycamore, Norway Maple and Hornbeam. Shrubs should not include those grown in other counties on roadsides, I suggest only wildlife attracting species such as Ceanothus, Spiriea , Cistus, Cotoneaster, Rosa rugusa, Syringa, Potentilla, Malus, Clematis, Ivies, Lonicera, Sorbus Sp -Whitebeam, Viburnum opulus-Guelder Rose, Prunus cerasifera-Cherry Plum, Acer campestre-Hedge/Field Maple, Buxus sempervirens-Box, Laburnum.


Particular wildflower species to protect and re-establish are Salad Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba), Annual
Gention (gentianella amerella), Bee Orchid, Fragrant Orchid and Pyramid Orchid.


Scientific research:

Identification is the first step in protecting flora, Much of the work has been done and is well recorded. The county register for flora can be contacted and lists of each site drawn up. Monitoring changes in the land use and management of each site and the flora will have to be carried out over many years. a status for each site will allow effective decision making and target resources. Air pollution and roadside traffic will effect certain flora. Management oriented research regarding native flora is difficult to access for Irish conditions. 
However if a new impetus can be generated about the flora then effective monitoring and consultation will repay the investment incurred in establishing a serious effort at the protection of the flora of Co. Offaly.

Planting new Esker Floras.
The best chance for inexpensive management of the flora is to let nature to grow abundant on the roadsides so that the resource is not so rare or precious. To this end, I suggest a programme of planting
non floral grassy roadsides with plugs (small potted plants) and reseeding into non grassy areas. such as where stresses have stopped the grasses establishing). Amenity planting reasons may suggest that certain grassed slopes of roadside could provide excellent
conditions for flora, in such cases spraying (weed killing) the grass away and introducing seed would be useful, I suggest starting trial plots of both seeding and planting into grass and resowing after killing off the grass.

Seed source: 

The best seed will always be harvested from Eskers and then resown back on to them, quarries could be asked to allow the pickers to access their flora for such reasons. Once a seed stock was established and seed collection sites could be classified and conserved for reasons of special conservation, as living gene banks.


Offaly County Council should also be planting certain amenity flower beds in the county with wildflowers instead of cultivated plants. My reasons for suggesting this is to raise public awareness as to the beauty of wildflora and to build stocks of species as mature plants which can be sown into rough grass on roadsides. A school children’s or tidy town project to sow flower beds would be an imaginative campaign. Furthermore provided the seed was locally sourced large quantities of seed could be collected from the beds and used to sow Eskers. Many of the rarer wild plants would be better grown on smaller scale than can be achieved on commercial nurseries and the county would end up developing its own seed bank. Eventually the seed could be sold or redistributed to farmers, quarries and gardeners on Esker soils.

 

Ancient Flora of the Esker Ridges. (Fairy foxgloves photo)

Site No1. As sown 1997. 
Following a site visit and assessment of the sown flora on our first trial there is excellent and very natural coverage where no weed problems arise. (mainly on non top soiled areas). However very steep banks, cliff faces and areas where top soil was spread while showing some flora are disappointing. Yet species have established in these areas and can be managed to spread.


See species list provided, 27 species established including all the most important roadside wildflowers of eskers.
Species list of all species sown on the Esker ridge, for Offaly Co Council.
# denotes species as seen on 12-5-99.
* denotes species seen since sowing.

Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris #
Devil's Bit Scabious Succisa pratensis #
Red Clover Trifolium pratense #
White Campion Silene alba #
Burnet Saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga #
Vetch Common Vicia Sativa nigra #
Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica
Wood Sage Teucrium scordonia
Corn Spurry Spergula arvensis *
Red batiste Bartsia viscosa
Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea
Eyebright Euphrasia artica
Viola spp. Viola hirta 
Pineapple Mayweed Chamomilla suaveolens
Quaking Grass Briza media 
Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum #
Cowslip Primula veris #
Selfheal Prunella vulgaris #
Hemp Agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum
Teasel Dipsacus fullonum
Sorrel Rumex acetosa
Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata #
Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa #
Wild Carrot Daucus carota #
Scentless Mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum #
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
Burdock Arctium minus *
Hoary plantain Plantago coronopus #
Marjoram Origanum vulgare #
Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus #
St Johnswort Hypericum perforatum #
Mullein Verbascum thapsus #
Yellow Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria.
Smooth Hawksbit Leontodon autumnalis #
Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris #
Field Scabious Knautia arvensis #
Corn Marigold Chrysanthemum segetum *
Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor #
Ox-eye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare #
Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa
Redshank Polygonum persicaria *
Corn Poppy Papaver rhoeas *
Yarrow Achillea millefolium #
Lesser Knapweed Centaurea nigra #
Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa #
Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria #
Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre
Black Meddick #
Catchfly
Weld
Opium Poppy
Devilsbit Scabious #
Burnet Saxifrage
Carline Thistle *
Ragged Robin.
Alchammille Spp #
Rough Hawksbit #


Comment: Owing to the spreading of top soil/peat which contained Marestail many of the seedlings have been smothered, however Greater Knapweed and Bladder Campion will survive and be able to out grow the Marestail.

Treatment:  Manage the Marestail by removing all large stones and debris and then harrow in September 2000. Manage the Esker that has established with very light grazing tethered horse between September and late April.

Fertiliser: Spread seaweed meal or special soil enricher, Coburns & Sons LTD have been contacted on your behalf and will get back to you.

 

Site No. 2

Example of site specific 100M section at Blueball, Co. Offaly

The new road widening scheme has cut into an ancient woodland, I fear in widening the road a fair number of plants have been destroyed. Urgent The newly spread top soil spread on the verge of the road, contains the climbing weed bindweed and it should be removed. If and when the bindweed spreads up the bank into the woods it will destroy the native flora and the rare coppice woodland. Replace the topsoil with a sandy weed free soil and so a grassy verge with wildflowers.


Do not spread topsoil on the esker bank, instead sow flora and feed, Use grass seed with wild flora at .05grams per M. Sow wild flora at 1.5 grams per M and include .5 gram of annual nurse crop.

Rough measurements 
Bank: 225m long x 20 wide (4500M) not including verge. Use 6.5 kg Esker flora. .5 Grasses and 4.5 annuals. Verge: 200m x 5 m wide (1000). Sow 1kg flora and 3 kg grasses. The seed mixture can be hydra seeded or hydraspread if hydraspread seaweed gel is mixed and then seed is added and both are turned into sand, this can be spread by hand by council workers.

NB: Spotted orchid 1.5 metre from road works.

The slope that has been worked has damaged an ancient woodland flora. Special consideration will be required managing the woodland on top of the new cutting, Fencing and restricted access are suggested to stop dumping and cattle from further damaging the flora, coppicing the woodland and selecting stems to grow as high forest would be beneficial over a period of five years. Replant some natural looking groups of trees, Ash and Hazel on to the bank in autumn. To plant these trees have topsoil spread now in advance of planting prior to autumn sowing.

Wildflower seed sowing time.
If the seed can be sown in the next two weeks sow now, as I have mixtures in stock or sow in mid September. Locally sourced will be used where possible, For the very best in nature conservation project use seed picked of the eskers this summer, However the cost will rise if all species are to be picked in the wild as picking is slower. 
Hellebore less than 1 m from top of cutting between wood and roadwork. 


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