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vert bar Assessing the suitability of commercial seed mixes in the restoration of native, species rich meadows in Ireland

Darach Lupton (National Botanic Gardens), Ms Marie Dromey (National Parks and Wildlife Service).
Last updated: 22 December 2008

Project Background

In recent years, attempts to tackle loss in native meadow species diversity have been undertaken by both private and commercial organisations. In many cases, the development or re-creation of native meadows has been carried out by simply broadcasting ‘native’ seed mixes onto selected sites and allowing the introduced seeds to establish in the existing vegetation community. The use of ‘native’ wild-flower seed mixes is now being commonly used in large-scale landscaping, especially on new road verges and embankments. Philosophically and theoretically, this is to be applauded. However, without a clear and rigorous set of guidelines based on sound scientific investigation these endeavours may ultimately erode some of Ireland’s unique plant communities and ultimately damage our already depleted national flora. A review of the literature suggests there has been no scientific investigation into the potential long-term vegetation changes caused by the use of commercially available wild flower mixes in Ireland. There are no published data on the genetic diversity of commercial mixes and the potential impact they might have on the levels and patterns of genetic diversity in wild populations. This study will provide baseline data on these issues and will contribute towards developing a series of best practice guidelines for the collection, management and use of wild flower seed mixes in Ireland.

Highly fertile, species
poor grassland
Lychnis flos-cuculi is an
attractive species found in
wet, low nutrient meadows.
Ophrys apifera, a species
of drier meadows

Project Aims:

  • To assess the suitability of commercial wild-flower seed mixes for the long-term development and restoration of native Irish meadows.
  • Assess the changes in species diversity over time in meadows established using commercial seed mixes
  • Determine what influence the soil seed bank and local seed rain has on meadows established using commercial seed mixes and assess whether commercially sown wild flower meadows will, over time, revert to the local vegetation type.
  • Compare levels of genetic diversity contained within selected ‘native’ species grown by commercial seed suppliers with the diversity contained in their wild relatives.
  • Make available a clear set of scientifically based guidelines regarding the use of wild flower seeds in habitat restoration in Ireland.
Project Staff and Partners

The project is being co-managed by Dr Darach Lupton of the National Botanic Gardens and Ms Marie Dromey of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The project is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland.