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Gardeners urged to 'learn to love their dandelions'.

Byline: Sally Williams Farming Editor

FARMERS and gardeners across Wales are today being urged by conservationists not to pull up one of their biggest pests - dandelions - because they are a vital early spring bloom that can help to save bees and aid food production, naturally.

Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, says many species regarded commonly as weeds are also incredibly valuable for other wildlife and should be preserved. She said: "Weed is a tricky term. "It doesn't really say anything ecologically meaningful; it just means a plant growing somewhere we've decided we don't want it to. It says more about us, than the plant.

"Together these so-called weeds provide year-round nectar sources or our bees, hoverflies and butter-flies, including at times of year when few garden plants are in flower.

"Dandelions are a classic example, which bloom early and which are flowering prolifically at the moment, creating a nectar heaven.

"Later in the year, species like thistle provide seeds which are loved by goldfinches. Stinging nettles are used by beautiful butter-flies like small tortoiseshells and peacocks to lay their eggs.

"Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant producing beautiful purple flowers. Its seeds germinate well after exposure to high temperatures, earning it the name 'fireweed', growing where bonfires have occurred. It was also known as 'bombweed' after the London blitz, springing up on bomb sites.

"Bees love willowherb, and produce great honey from it.

"However, plants commonly regarded as weeds are often those that produce prolific seed and grow quickly and copiously and often in quite harsh conditions.

"A dandelion is actually not one flower but many; each yellow petal strip is actually an individual flower. They are beautiful, fascinating, and important and we should learn to love them.

"Our desire to have a tidy garden, to exclude these species from our manicured lawns and patios, and the prolific advertising of products that will help eliminate, destroy and eradicate them, has helped embed a view that these species are somehow 'bad'.

"In fact, they are just wild flowers which, if viewed in a different context, would be recognised for the beauty, colour, and incredible resilience that they display.

"Next time you see a dandelion in flower, try and take a moment to look at it carefully, at the colour and its intricacies. A dandelion is as stunning as a chrysanthemum and is a lot easier to grow."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 12, 2015
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