Rain and Wildflowers

We may not enjoy it, but rain is normally an important and regular feature of our weather here in Dalgety Bay. So, when during April and May we had very little, we rejoiced in the dry and sunny weather for our Lockdown walks. But while we enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine, without regular rain the wildflowers that provide some springtime colour suffered along with the wildlife that depended on them. The previous blog on June 14 discussed the reasons for the absence so far this year of the wonderful display of Cornfield Annuals beside the Coastal Path at the Heritage Viewpoint that had been such a talking point from May onwards in 2019.

Indeed, the flower areas on both sides of the path and the bank behind the seat, as seen on June 2nd, were looking particularly dry and barren.

Close examination showed that there were nevertheless some plants growing low down and close to the soil - surviving despite the absence of rain. After such a long dry period June 3rd brought some 10mm of welcome rain and since then there have been other rainy days and nights giving a June total of 58 mm - over twice the combined April and May totals.

The effect of this rain on the path borders has been a rapid growth of those hardy plants and a very welcome return of colour from at least some of the Cornfield Annuals. As shown in the slide show below

As explained in the previous blog the planned supplementary seed sowing did not take place this spring, initially because of unsuitable weather and then because of Lockdown. All the flowers currently putting on such a good show for both passers-by and pollinating insects have therefore germinated from seed shed into the soil by the abundant flowers of summer 2019. This is of course why this suite of flowers were such a feature of cornfields before the advent of selective herbicides and the intensification of agriculture. Seeds shed from one year’s flowers were stimulated to germinate when the fields were ploughed and sown with grain crops each year. They did not need anyone to specifically sow them.

The flowers in bloom this year at the Heritage Viewpoint however lack the bright scarlet of the poppies, though there were some to be seen beside the Forth Bridge information board. Perhaps they were not so good at surviving the additional trampling along the path side that was a sensible response by walkers needing to improving the distance from others passing by on that section of path. This is confirmed by the Cornfield Annuals flowering at The Triangle where poppies are a feature except for where the footfall created a new path as people cut off the corner, perhaps to provide a greater distance when encountering others.

The species that are now flowering so well at the Heritage Viewpoint are the other Cornfield Annuals; Cornflower; Scentless Mayweed; and Corn Marigold. They were also part of last year’s display of colour, but this year they are much shorter, reflecting the less time they had to grow following the ground preparation ready for seed sowing that had been done in January. For the 2019 flowering, seed sowing was at the end of August 2018 and plants were already well grown by the spring of 2019.

But is not just the plants beside the path that have benefited from the June rains. Some of the perennials like Viper’s Bugloss which were flowering in the dry conditions at the end of May have nevertheless put on further growth and flowering following the June rains, and others too are now growing and flowering. The changes can be seen by clicking on the slide show below.

While the Coastal Path in this section is still a bit narrow, it is possible to walk down to the Heritage Viewpoint without having to pass too close to others, especially as most people are very thoughtful about standing aside. So, if you have not had a chance yet to see and appreciate our efforts to provide both colour and valuable flowers for pollinators and other insects it is well worth making the effort. Meanwhile, it is also worth taking a closer look at the wildflower bank across the road from The Triangle as it has a good range of the established perennials in bloom.

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