Campaign group Plantlife unveils list of top 10 endangered species and calls for better management of road verges that have become habitats of Britains flora

Some of the UKs rarest plants are at risk of extinction unless action is taken to look after the road verges that have become their final refuge, a charity has warned.

Species such as fen ragwort and wood calamint are now only found on road verges, with fen ragwort hanging on in just one native spot near a burger van on the A142 in Cambridgeshire, conservation charity Plantlife said.

Other plants such as sulphur clover, crested cow-wheat and wood bitter-vetch have lost much of their habitats in meadows, pastures or woodlands and are now most frequently found on the side of roads.

In total, Britains verges are home to more than 700 species of wild plants, with 12% threatened with extinction or heading in that direction, Plantlife said.

Wood calamint is one of the species found only on road verges. Photograph: M Cotterill/IWNHAS/Plantlife/PA

Some verges are effectively fragments of wildflower-rich ancient hay meadows and grasslands, most of which have been lost through the countryside since the 1930s, while coastal plants have exploited motorways and A-roads that are salted in winter.

The wildflowers provide nectar and pollen, and are a refuge for many declining bee, butterfly, bird, bat and bug species, with plants such as birds-foot trefoil a food source for 160 species of insect found on many verges.

Plantlife has revealed the top 10 threatened species growing on Britains road verges, as it calls for better road verge management to help protect wild flowers and plants. The list includes among others the species tower mustard, velvet ladys-mantle, yarrow broomrape and Welsh groundsel.

The charity also said road verges were an important connection to nature for people, with their flowers from bluebells to knapweed providing colour and a sense of the seasons through the year.

Trevor Dines, Plantlifes botanical specialist, said: For too long road verges have been thought of as dull, inconsequential places that flash by in the wing mirror.

But these findings underline just how fundamental verges are to the health of wildflowers and the wildlife they support.

Sadly, road verges have been woefully disregarded for decades and are increasingly poorly managed for nature.

He said some very rare plants were hanging on thanks to the existence of some well-managed verges.

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