Skip to main content

If you’re taking part in No Mow May this year, then your garden will be well on its way to becoming a beautiful, biodiverse haven for nature. But there is a bonus to helping the wildflowers grow – as you allow lawn to become meadow, your garden becomes your very own carbon store, helping to reduce your carbon footprint.

When carbon sequestration is mentioned, most minds turn to trees. As a society we are more aware than ever before of the role of woodlands in combatting climate change and creating a space for nature. Much less discussed is the remarkable and equally vital role our grasslands and meadows can play in increasing biodiversity and capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.  

How do grasslands store carbon?

Wildflowers growing in a meadow with cattle behind

When we create healthy grasslands and meadows by mowing or grazing livestock, we are simply replicating the activity of the herds of large wild herbivores that once moved across our hills and valleys. These habitats – if the grazing is gentle, infrequent and low intensity – recreate prehistoric landscapes and provide a home for our wild plants, insects, birds and fungi. Natural and semi-natural grasslands (meaning those that are farmed but in a traditional, less intensive manner) improve the quality of our water, prevent flooding and help increase the resilience of farming to summer droughts. 

This grassland – and the healthy soil beneath it – also has an incredible and little-known potential to lock away atmospheric carbon. Soil carbon is a particularly valuable store; it is far more stable and long lasting than the carbon in trees, which is vulnerable to forest fires, pests and disease.

As plants live and grow, carbon from the atmosphere is drawn down into the plants’ roots, where the myriad creatures in the soil make use of it, locking it away beneath the ground. As the diversity of plants on the surface increases, so does the diversity of microorganisms, fungi and invertebrates beneath it. The more diverse the soil life, the richer the entire ecosystem – and the more carbon the soil can store.

The role of Mycorrhizal fungi

The almost mystical role of mycorrhizal fungi is now well known. They connect roots to the nutrients in the soil, trading sugars that plants and trees create from sunlight with locked away minerals the fungi extract from the soil. We now know that plants and trees can communicate through these fungal networks, alerting them to pests and diseases and passing nutrients to others in need.

Meadow on Dartmoor

Mycorrhizal fungi have another important role – they are critical in the ability of plants to transfer carbon to the soil. In areas of farmland, meadow and garden where the soil is ploughed, fertilised or dominated by a small number of grass species, these mycorrhizal networks are much less effective – with fewer species and a lower carbon storage potential. When we look after our farmland and gardens with care, mowing and grazing infrequently and gently, avoiding ploughing and pesticides, we nurture our mycorrhizal fungi, helping the soil to become a more potent carbon store.

How does No Mow May help?

By taking part in No Mow May, you will not only begin to create a home for wildflowers and insects, you will also create healthier soils that nourish your garden plants – and reduce your carbon footprint in the process.

England alone has around 640,000 hectares of private garden. If just a quarter of this area was transformed into wildflower rich meadow – by mowing just once or twice a year and collecting the cuttings – then these garden soils could potentially capture and store an additional amount of carbon equivalent to more than 3 million average cars’ annual emissions within a spade’s depth, and well over 10 million cars in soils as deep as one meter*.

A blossoming garden lawn full of wildflower

Lawns and gardens are of course just one part of the puzzle – the UK’s farmed grassland landscape offers tremendous potential for us to sequester carbon, while also protecting agriculture and biodiversity.

Farmers and landowners have a fundamental role to play – combining food production with sustainable grasslands that lock away carbon in healthy, ecologically rich soils. Some 40% of the UK’s land area is grassland – but much of this is intensively farmed, limiting its potential for carbon storage.

Globally, studies have suggested that 2.3-7.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalents per year could be sequestered through grassland diversity restoration. Carbon sequestration doesn’t just mean more trees. Healthy grassland, with the more sensitive grazing and less intensive farming that nourishes it, also keeps carbon out of the atmosphere. 

No matter how large or small our garden, we all have a role to play, and we can all make a difference. It’s easy to get started – just put your lawnmower away this May!

More about #NoMowMay

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

Creating a meadow is a really simple way to bring the local community together, whilst doing something positive for nature.

You don’t need to be an expert to start one – we’ve shared our tips for how to begin, what to plant, how to manage your green space year-round and how to engage the community.

So, what are community meadows? They are areas, predominantly of grassland, that are owned and managed by the community, such as parks, road verges, school grounds, village greens, church land or fields.

A meadow with Oxeye daisies, lush green grass and woodlands in the background

Why should you start a community meadow?

  • For the benefit of nature
  • To create an ecosystem where wildlife can flourish
  • Bring the community together
  • To bring nature into towns and cities
  • Help tackle biodiversity loss and store carbon

Read more: How to grow a wildflower meadow

Getting started

Now you’ve decided to try and start a community meadow, it’s hard to know where to begin. We’ve got plenty of experience and advice to help you along the way.

Contact your local council – Whether it’s parish, town or district council, reaching out to your local decision makers to promote wildlife-friendly management can make a big difference. Local support can really help to bring about change, whether that’s through a volunteer group or social media page. Check out our Good Meadows Guide for some convincing arguments.

Positive perceptions – Some people might be concerned that not cutting a greenspace as regularly might make it look neglected and untidy. But, framing a greenspace by cutting narrow strips around the wildflower area can offset some negative perceptions. Other concerns about plant height for road safety can be tackled by growing shorter species, which can still support an array of pollinators such as clovers, trefoils, Selfheal and Yarrow.

Communicating at every step – Telling people what and why you are creating a meadow is crucial for understanding. By bringing the community with you and working together, it will be easier to explain the benefits of meadow making. You could write something in the local magazine, talk about your meadow-making journey on social media or put up a sign.

Community activities – Bringing the community together to help create a meadow can be very beneficial. You can run activities, join campaigns or hold events to gather momentum.

  • Plantlife’s No Mow May is a great starting point to encourage the community to take part in a community meadow and see the benefits. People without their own gardens can actively get involved in helping wildlife, tackling pollution and even locking carbon beneath the ground. And those with their own green spaces can take their enthusiasm home and do #NoMowMay in their own gardens. Sign up your green space or garden here.

 

How to fund a community meadow?

If you need some help funding your community meadow, these places might be able to offer support:

  • Charity Commission – A range of charities offer funding for community meadows. You need to complete an advanced search under ‘how the charity helps’.
  • Local Supermarket Community Grants – Most supermarkets support local causes through tax on carrier bags or instore tokens such as Tesco, Asda and Co-op. 
  • Postcode Local Trust – Grants of up to £2,000 for community interest groups and voluntary organisations are up for grabs.
  • Local Community Foundations – They channel funding to local projects and will be able to advise on where to access support.
  • Local Councils – Contacting your local authority and asking them about available funding is definitely worth a shot.
  • Area’s of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks – If your meadow lies in either of these areas, it’s worth contacting your local organisation to see if there is any funding available.
  • Lottery – Small lottery grants, worth £300-£10,000 are available across the UK.

We hope that this helps you in creating a wonderful community meadow. Do let us know on social media when you have tried these methods and your progress in creating a meadow by tagging us.

Find a meadow group near you:

Are you feeling inspired, but not sure where to start? Aside from Plantlife’s guidance, a great source of  knowledge and personal support can be from meadow groups. A huge variety of groups exist across the country, who manage meadows for hay, livestock or community benefits. These groups could also be good places to start when searching for local seeds or advice.

If you would like to add your community meadow group to our list, please get in touch here.

More ways to learn about wild plants and fungi

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

Meadows come to life in the spring and summer, bursting with vibrant wildflowers and buzzing with insects and animals. But species-rich grassland areas, which used to occur commonly throughout Britain, are now amongst the most threatened habitats in the UK.

Approximately 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost across the UK since the 1930s. That’s why wildflowers and meadows are not only beautiful staples of the British countryside, but also crucial habitats that need restoring.

Why are meadows so amazing?

  • They are important ecosystems
  • Species-rich grasses can significantly improve carbon storage in the soil
  • They provide a brilliant habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and small mammals
  • Old grasslands can have very diverse fungal networks
  • In fact, 140 plant species can be found in a single meadow

WATCH: Not just a pretty space, this is a living space

So, the more areas that can be turned into wildflower meadows, the better things get for nature.

No matter the size of your land, the process of making a wildflower meadow is pretty much the same. Follow these steps to start your meadow-making journey:

Cut the grass

Before sowing seed, in late summer or autumn, you must cut the grass as short as possible. The cuttings must then be removed because most meadow species thrive in nutrient-poor soil with low fertility levels. Leaving the cuttings on the grass to rot down, both stifles delicate seedlings, and adds nutrients.

This can easily be done using a strimmer or mower and the cuttings removed with a rake.

Tackle any problem plants

It is really important to control any problem plants that could prevent your meadow from thriving. For example, species such as Nettle, Creeping Thistle and Dock can rapidly spread and crowd wildflowers in poorly managed meadows.

To stop this, it is best to pull these plants out by hand, cut their heads before they set seed or spot spray them. Bramble and scrub will also need to be controlled before creating a meadow.

If you have lots of problem plants, it will be easier (if possible) to try and create a meadow on another piece of land.

Create bare ground

Bare ground is simply an area that has no plants living in it. It provides germination gaps and growing space for meadow flowers and grasses. Having about 50-70% of land as bare ground will increase your chances of creating a wildflower meadow.

This can be done by hand with vigorous raking, strimming or using a rented garden scarifier.

Sow seeds

Sprinkle and gently trample in your seeds, which can be mixed with sand for easier spreading. During drier spells, water the ground if possible, but do not wash away the seeds.

Then, over the next few months pull up any Creeping Thistle and Dock or cut the flower heads off and remove before they set seed (these can spread fast and smother wildflowers).

Knowing a bit about your soil can also really help you to choose which seeds to sow. There are many factors that can influence what will grow including the soil type, fertility, location, weather, availability of light and what’s already growing there.

Don’t worry if your meadow looks a bit plain in its first year, many perennials take at least a couple of years to establish.

We hope that these tips help you in creating a wonderful meadow. Do share your meadow-making journey with us on social media by tagging us.

More ways to learn about wild plants and fungi

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Hazel Gloves Fungus is a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, learn more about this rainforest fungi this Reverse the Red month.

Wildflower meadows, a staple of the British countryside, are a buzz of activity, especially in the spring and summer. It’s not just the wildflowers and fungi that rely on their diverse vegetation, in fact, a range of wildlife can call these habitats home. By growing a meadow, you can also create a home or hunting ground for bees, butterflies, invertebrates, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Here are some of the animals you might spot in a meadow:

Invertebrates

A Flower Beetle resting on a large Oxeye Daisy, image by Pip Gray
  • Creating a meadow can really make a buzz and life in the centre can be like rush hour for insects
  • You can see everything, from ants to grasshoppers and huge armies of beetles and bugs
  • For many invertebrates, the stems, roots and leaves of meadow grasses and flowers provide food and shelter
  • The Cockchafer Beetle, commonly known as the May Bug, relies on grassy areas to lay their eggs
  • The common Bird’s-foot-Trefoil alone is a food plant for 130 different species of invertebrates

Our friends at Buglife can tell you more

Bees

Buff tailed bumblebee feeding on Knapweed
  • Pollinators, such as bees, commute to meadows every day to feast on nectar and pollen
  • Managing a meadow appropriately will increase the number of wildflowers that it supports, thus increasing the foraging habitat for bumblebees and other foragers
  • Red-tailed Bumblebees, found across the UK, rely on a plentiful supply of wild plants including dandelions and red clovers to supply them with nectar and pollen
  • If you’re in a meadow, look out for bumblebees, burrowing bees, flower bees, carder bees and honeybees
  • There are about 270 species of bee in Britain

Buzz over to the Bumblebee Trust here.

Butterflies and Moths

  • Even in a small meadow, wildflowers can be a magnet for butterflies and moths
  • When you’re planting for butterflies it’s good to have a constant procession of flowering plants throughout the summer – something that is in flower for as long as possible – ideally from March to November
  • This means local populations of butterflies and moths will not have to travel too far to find food
  • The Meadow Brown butterfly is one of the most common species found in grasslands
  • While the brightly coloured Cinnabar Moth relies entirely on one of the sunniest wildflowers – the yellow Common Ragwort. The tiger-striped caterpillars munch on the plant before pupating underground over the winter, ready to emerge as moths the next year

Flutter over to Butterfly Conservation for a bit more

Birds

  • The many insects that call meadows home also support other wildlife like swallows, skylarks and yellow wagtails
  • Goldfinches and linnets feast on the abundant seed heads
  • While lapwings, curlew and starling search the ground for insects from early autumn to spring

Fly over to the RSPB for a bit more

 

Mammals

Brown hare
  • Meadows provide a place for wild animals to forage, breed and nest – and if the grasses are tall enough, they can provide shelter
  • A large number of small mammals can call meadows home – including mice, voles and shrews
  • They also attract birds of prey to meadows, especially owls and kestrels
  • Other mammals you might spot in a meadow include moles, rabbits, hares, badgers and grazing deer
    • And we can’t forget bats – who can be seen in the summer months flying low over grassland

Meander over to the Mammal Society to find out more

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Allowing lawns or green spaces to develop into meadows can provide a great habitat for amphibians, reptiles and their prey – unlike closely-mown lawns
  • The tall grasses and flowers (vegetation) provide these animals with cover
  • Reptiles and amphibians also prefer native plant species and minimal use of pesticides as they mainly feed on invertebrates, other amphibians and small mammals

Slither over to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to find out more

As I write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

two brown cows grazing in a field

Why we’re all talking about food

It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.

The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.

Wild plants and fungi – not just for lunch, but for climate

We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.

Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.

Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:

  • food is produced from the livestock
  • the livestock provide the grazing needed to maintain a balanced grassland ecosystem
  • the healthy ecosystem stores carbon and is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change
Small square hay bailer in field

But not all agriculture is equal…

It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.

Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.

That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.

We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.

CoP28 announcement

At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.

This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.

However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.

Food for thought

Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.

Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?

Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?

Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?

We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.  

As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table. 

Jo Riggall

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 
person holding a plant with white flowers

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 

The beautiful mountain plant, Rosy Saxifrage, has returned to the wild in Wales after becoming extinct in 1962.  

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election
A group of protestors holding a banner which reads 'A world rich in plants and fungi'

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election

We depend on Plants and Fungi, however their future depends on what elected politicians do for nature. Use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election.

Today is Nature Day at the climate COP28 in Dubai. Having just spent a week at the conference, I’m taking the chance to reflect on the role of nature in these huge global negotiations.

It was my first UN Climate conference and a truly eye-opening experience. With around 100,000 participants from around the world and all sectors, I was able to listen to and connect with a huge diversity of new people, as well as our NGO partners in the global Climate Action Network.

When we say ‘nature’, what do we really mean?

One of Plantlife’s ambitions for COP28 is to see greater recognition of nature as a powerful part of the solution to climate change, as these crises are intrinsically linked. We know that wild plants and fungi are the foundation of all ecosystems and our natural world.

So, when we say ‘nature’, we mean wild plants and fungi – I said this to many people in Dubai, giving them pause for thought. Plants and fungi are so often seen as just a green backdrop to other wildlife, yet they deserve a place in spotlight on Nature Day.

We are calling for COP28 decisions that put wild plants, fungi and all nature at the heart of climate action. To make this really work, we need to see joined up working between the UN climate convention and the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), agreed through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In practice, this means that governments need to cross-reference their net zero and climate adaptation plans with their biodiversity strategies, including by delivering the global plant actions as part of the GBF.

Listening to Indigenous Peoples when we talk about nature

On my last night in Dubai, I chose a side event to attend at random and it was the best, most meaningful one I went to that week. It was organised by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) on women implementing climate justice solutions.

At climate COPs, it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, the scale of the conference itself and sometimes being star-struck with the high-profile climate influencers in attendance. But this event was held by Indigenous women and was incredibly powerful and emotive.

The speakers shared their lived experience of what it’s like to be on the frontline of fighting a global crisis.

This is a global crisis that Indigenous Peoples played no hand in creating, yet which has had an often-horrifying impact on their relationship with nature. They are also rarely given a role in the solutions.

One speaker, when referencing the CBD slogan of ‘living in harmony with nature’, said how shocking it is that Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge was not being called to the forefront of decision-making – when these are decisions about the natural world with which they have always lived in absolute harmony and balance.

The UN states that at least a quarter of the world’s land area is owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples and so the fate of nature, our climate and Indigenous Peoples is deeply interlinked.

There are signs of hope. Brazilian President Lula da Silva handed an opportunity to speak at a COP event to their Minister of Environment, Marina Silva. Having grown up in the forests of Brazil, she has a deep personal understanding of how Indigenous communities depend on the forests and live in them. The Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Minister, Sonia Guajajara, is leading the country’s negotiating team after the President left the conference. This is a small step towards doing the right thing, despite the President facing criticism and winning the Fossil of the Day Award earlier this week for announcing the expansion of oil production.

Small steps? We need giant strides.

The alarming speed and scale of climate change and biodiversity loss demands urgent and large-scale action. Small steps are not enough. We are looking for strong and ambitious action on nature and climate from the world’s governments at COP28.

The CoP 28 Presidency set out 4 pillars in its COP28 Action Plan – one being ‘focusing on people, nature, lives and livelihoods’ and another ‘fostering full inclusivity’. These are essential foundations for action, harnessing the power of nature and Indigenous People’s knowledge to create a liveable world for future generations.

Watch this space…

One of the key connections between people and nature is farming – we all need to eat! Tomorrow is Food Day at COP28 so look out for our blog on the role of grasslands and savannahs in supporting food security, livelihoods, biodiversity and carbon storage.

Covering more than half the Earth’s land, with around 800 million people being dependant on them globally for their livelihoods and food, and their ability to hold up to 35% of the Earth’s land carbon, they really fit the bill. Yet somehow grasslands remain undervalued and overlooked compared to forests and oceans.

See how Plantlife is working with WWF and others to highlight these critical ecosystems.

Claire 

img:istock/Guilherme de Melo

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 
person holding a plant with white flowers

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 

The beautiful mountain plant, Rosy Saxifrage, has returned to the wild in Wales after becoming extinct in 1962.  

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election
A group of protestors holding a banner which reads 'A world rich in plants and fungi'

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election

We depend on Plants and Fungi, however their future depends on what elected politicians do for nature. Use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election.

As I pack my bags and head off to Dubai, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what’s at stake at the climate COP and what role Plantlife can play at this huge global event. So, what is COP 28?

It’s the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Given the urgency of tackling climate change, these meetings of the world’s governments happen every year; two years ago, COP26 was hosted by the UK in Glasgow.

What’s happening and why do we care?

This COP will be a pivotal moment for the planet and people around the world will be watching closely. At the conference, the first Global Stocktake will take place – this is where Parties will report on their progress towards slashing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (also known as the Paris Agreement, adopted back in 2016).

We already know that progress needs to go faster and further – we are currently heading for about 2.5°C of warming by 2100, even if current pledges to tackle emissions are achieved. So, at COP28 we need to see governments commit to taking more action to cut emissions – and fast.

Alongside that, we’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.

What does COP28 have to do with our work at Plantlife?

Well, the first reason is that climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest challenges we’re facing globally, and they are intrinsically linked. There is simply no way to look at one crisis without considering the other.

Wild plants and fungi underpin all life on earth, they provide us with oxygen, food and fibres for our clothes, fuel, medicines and building materials. But on top of all of that, they are also a powerful force to tackle climate change; much of Plantlife’s work focuses on securing recognition of this. For example:

  • Reports suggest that global grasslands store between 25-35% of terrestrial carbon, with about 90% of that being underground. But they are a drastically unrecognised resource for climate mitigation and adaptation. With around 800 million people around the world dependant on them for their livelihoods and food, we will be pushing for decisions at COP28 which support their sustainable management and restoration to help meet countries’ climate and biodiversity commitments. It will also be the first climate summit to explicitly acknowledge the close interplay between food, land use, and the climate crisis.
  • Temperate rainforests require steady, year-round temperatures and high rainfall. Sadly, this highly specialised habitat area is in danger of being lost forever. The rare lichens, bryophytes, liverworts and ferns of temperate rainforests need us to work globally to save them and keep what makes nature unique.
  • The world’s hotspots for wild plants and fungi, Important Plant Areas (IPAs), are threatened by the impacts of climate change, but they are also essential to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. By conserving and restoring these important areas, they can protect against soil erosion, retain water and in the case of wetland habitats protect against extreme weather events.
  • Peatlands are one of the world’s largest terrestrial carbon stock – storing at least 550 gigatons of carbon globally – more than twice the carbon stored in all the world’s forests. Plantlife’s Munsary nature reserve in Scotland is just one example – and a small part – of this exceptionally important habitat which needs to be protected, managed and restored to help tackle climate change.

And yet..

Despite all the incredible work that is being done worldwide to reduce biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, it is thought by experts that we are currently in the 6th mass extinction. Latest estimates show that 45 % of flowering plant species could be at risk of extinction. Plant species are going extinct 500 times faster than they would be without the impacts of human activities – and faster than we can describe and name them.

This is the same for fungi, which can be directly affected by shifts in temperature and moisture levels. The overwhelming majority of fungal diversity is directly dependant on plants– whether as beneficial partners, decomposers or parasites – climate-related habitat change that harms plants in turn affects their co-existing fungi.

So what can Plantlife hope to achieve at COP – why are we going?

COP 28 is naturally facing some controversy, and people are understandably voicing concerns about how much will be achieved.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “It’s time to wake up and step up.”

We’re at a pivotal moment worldwide as to whether we will meet the Paris Agreement and we need a global commitment to ‘phase out’ not just ‘phase back’ fossil fuel production; otherwise, the outcomes of this COP may not be strong or ambitious enough to see us reach the 1.5°C goal in time.

Armed with the overwhelming scientific evidence about the critical role that wild plants and fungi can play in climate action, we’ll be speaking up at COP28 in person and online. We’ll be joining forces with partners from around the world to fight for urgent and ambitious action on nature and climate together.

For more than thirty years, Plantlife has spoken up for wild plants and fungi; making our voice heard at a global level has never been more important. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that wild plants and fungi stay at the forefront of governments’ minds when making commitments for climate mitigation, adaptation, and building resilience.

We’re on a mission to raise awareness of how important wild plants and fungi are to life and to inspire more people to take action to help them thrive again and I hope you’ll follow our updates for how the meeting goes, here and on our social media channels!

Claire

Fancy a half-term adventure for the whole family, that gets the kids outside and interested in nature? Well, the answer is on your doorstep…fungi hunting.  

Fungi are one of our most fascinating creations, and best of all, they are right under our noses – perfect for children to spot. You don’t even need to go to a nature reserve, the hunt for fungi can begin in your back garden or local greenspace.  

With autumn well and truly here, I have found myself delving into the weird and wonderful world of fungi – very much aided by my children’s interest. The questions about what is this strange looking mushroom, what are these neon blobs, or gelatinous goo on the log – prompted my own interest in jolly-well finding out.

As it turns out, fungi are as diverse and complicated a group as one might expect. And it’s quite astonishing how brilliant children are at spotting them. (I suppose being that much closer to the ground and having 20:20 vision is probably a large amount to do with it!)

Parrot Waxcap

Where to find Fungi?

You can find fungi in so many places, here are just a few:  

  • Among grasses in gardens or green spaces  
  • The forest floor 
  • Under leaf litter or on fallen logs  
  • At the base and on trunks of trees  

What to bring ?

  • A notepad and pencils 
  • Phone or camera  
  • Some snacks for those hungry fungi-hunters  
  • A hand lens is helpful, but not essential  

On our first trip out, we found more than 30 species in just one hour, ranging from the colourful circus like fungi, to the downright weird freak show of stinkhorns and slime moulds. We have been to woods in the Blackdowns, Dead woman’s ditch in the Quantocks and even round the corner at Thurlbear. All of these places gave us a range of fascinating finds, just by stepping off the path and looking around. Even if you don’t know the species, a few quick photos from different angles and a social media post, will soon increase your knowledge.

Some amazing names

I think the children particularly like the sheer surprise element in fungi finding, you really don’t know what could turn up. Plus, the names are a delight – from The Sickener Russula Emetica, Green Elfcup Chlorociboria Aeruginascens, Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria Amethystina, Bearded Dapperling Cystolepiota Seminuda, Snapping Bonnet Mycena Vitilis, Yellow Brain Tremella Mesenterica and Turkey Tail Trametes Versicolor. Some of them ooze blood like droplets, turn bright blue when sliced, smell like honey or puff magic smokey spores when prodded! There are literally so many reasons for not only kids but the kids in us to be fascinated by this world of mycelial magic in the woods.

Family exploring in a woodland

Here are some top tips for those first-time fungi hunters:  

  • You don’t need to go to a nature reserve, you can often find fungi in your garden or local green space
  • Despite some being poisonous to eat, looking or even touching fungi is not harmful  
  • It’s fine to get close, take photos and examine their incredible beauty – without any worry or danger  
  • It’s always advisable to wash your hands before eating when you’re out exploring nature 

This Autumn, we’re also asking for your help to find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps. Click here to take part and find out more about our #WaxcapWatch– and you might even be able to help us find some important species-rich grassland in the process.  

And if you’d like to learn a bit more…

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 
person holding a plant with white flowers

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 

The beautiful mountain plant, Rosy Saxifrage, has returned to the wild in Wales after becoming extinct in 1962.  

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election
A group of protestors holding a banner which reads 'A world rich in plants and fungi'

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election

We depend on Plants and Fungi, however their future depends on what elected politicians do for nature. Use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election.

Every autumn one of the UK’s most colourful natural displays takes place: jewel-coloured waxcaps emerge through the grass across our countryside, cities and even some of our gardens. Let’s find them!

A pink mushroom

How to identify waxcaps

Waxcaps are types of mushrooms known for their shiny-looking caps. Together with other types of fascinatingly named fungi called pinkgills, earthtongues, club and coral fungi – they form a group called “grassland fungi”.

Waxcaps and grassland fungi come in a rainbow of different colours including vibrant violets, yellows, greens and pinks.

They also come in weird and wonderful shapes, which can help you to identify the species you’re looking at.

Where can I find waxcaps in the UK?

Chris Jones is the Warden at the Kenfig National Nature Reserve, one of our Dynamic Dunescapes sites, and has worked as a practical conservationist for over 25 years.

Kenfig is one of the largest sand dune systems in Wales and provides a unique habitat for a variety of rare and specialised species, including over 20 species of Waxcap fungi.

Violet coloured fungus with branches looking like coral on a green grassy area.

Chris’ tips on where to find waxcaps near you:

‘Waxcap fungi are commonly found in grasslands and meadows, and they are known for their ecological importance. They are often found in areas with short, grazed vegetation, but they can also occur in disturbed habitats, such as lawns and roadside verges.

Waxcaps are mostly found in the late summer and autumn, typically from September to November, depending on the local weather – but you can find them all year round.

Try looking for waxcaps on…

  • Meadows and pastures
  • Coastal grasslands on cliffs and sand dunes
  • Heath and uplands, such as hills and mountains
  • Urban grasslands including lawns, parks, church yards and stately home grounds
  • Roadside verges

The meadows where waxcaps are found are known as ‘waxcap grasslands’. These grasslands need specific conditions for waxcaps to thrive and are becoming rare.

On waxcap grasslands, waxcap fungi form partnerships with plants, where they exchange nutrients with the roots of host plants, benefiting both the fungi and the plants. This only happens in habitats with a high level of biodiversity, which the aims to identify.

Waxcap grasslands need:

  • Well-drained soil
  • To have not been disturbed by farming equipment for a long period of time
  • To have not been fertilised, so are low in soil nutrients
  • Short grass with plenty of moss

Waxcap fungi are fascinating not only for their vibrant colours but also for their significance as indicators of healthy grasslands. Their conservation is important for maintaining biodiversity and preserving these unique and beautiful fungi for future generations to enjoy.

Many waxcap species are considered rare or threatened, primarily due to habitat loss and changes in land management practices such as tree planting and intensive agriculture. If you find any, please record them on the Waxcap Watch app.

I LOVE Waxcaps, they are AMAZING! It is ridiculously hard to pick a favourite, but if I had to choose it would be… all of them.’

Discover Waxcap Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

White Campion

White Campion

Silene latifolia

‘I used to do lots of cultivating, reseeding, and fertilising. This impacts wild plant species and soil health, and releases greenhouse gases. I also realised that they were only short-term fixes and never really paid for the cost of the stress and inputs. Often as a farmer you feel you need to be producing at all costs, but financially, the cost of bought-in inputs has increased way past them being affordable.

 

Why I changed the way I farmed

I changed the system five years ago, after a conversation with a Civil Servant who said that, in the future, farmers would be paid for more nature friendly farming. The transition was challenging, both financially and mentally: the peer pressure to keep farming conventionally was huge.

Post-war the mindset was all about production, and tenant farmers would have lost their farms if they didn’t meet demands. This doctrine has influenced generations of farmers since. It’s meant we’ve lost the connection between how and why we produce the food, and we sometimes forget the benefits of wildlife within the farm system. 

 

What sustainable farming methods mean for wild plants

Hywel Morgan standing by a pond with trees behind him

Making the change has meant a large reduction in costs and I can see – and enjoy – the benefits of working with nature.

I try to keep everything simple. I have cut out chemicals and fertilisers. This helps to reduce soil fertility and then encourages the growth of wildflowers and other grasslands plants that need low nutrient levels. I’ve seen many more Birds-foot Trefoil, Yellow Rattle, Yarrow, and Plantain since making the change. I’ve also got loads of different species of waxcap in my fields now, some are even of regional importance.

My hedges are now allowed to grow taller and thicker, and only trimmed every three years. I have also planted a lot of trees and hedging over the last few years and created large pond.

Farming livestock right can benefit biodiversity

Plants need recovery time after grazing so they can flourish. To allow this to happen I now do mob grazing, which is moving cattle in short bursts of high intensity grazing, and bale grazing, which is allowing livestock to feed off a whole, intact bale of hay. I have cut out bought-in feed apart for some hay, and focus on producing high quality, pasture-fed livestock.

I needed a better balance between grazing types, because sheep and cows graze in different ways, so reduced sheep and increased cattle numbers. Without the right management, sheep will nibble out pretty much everything, cattle graze in a less destructive way and are generally better for biodiversity. I’m always working to find out what balance is right for my land.

Nature friendly farming should just be ‘farming’

 

Government policy should reward smaller family nature friendly farms – it’s a reward for doing good things that benefit all of us. Banks and supermarkets need to support this move too as healthy nutritious food is part of the solution for climate, environment and peoples’ health. More farmer-to-farmer advice and support regarding regenerative agriculture is also needed to move to a sustainable future.

Achieving food security means eating locally and seasonally and certainly, we can’t have a stable food system when nature is in decline. I believe nature friendly farming should just be called “farming” and anything else should be called industrial or chemical farming.’

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 
person holding a plant with white flowers

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 

The beautiful mountain plant, Rosy Saxifrage, has returned to the wild in Wales after becoming extinct in 1962.  

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.