Around 1,400 species of pollinators and other insects relying on wildflower meadows for their survival

How wildflower seed can help business bloom

The vital role of wildflower seeds in pollinating our food, maintaining biodiversity and contributing to the economy will be highlighted on National Meadows Day (2 July) in two new reports published by the South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity Programme (SWEEP).

They highlight an innovative business case for wildflowers seed production in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through SWEEP’s partnership with the Lost Gardens of Heligan wildflower project.

Wildflower meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK covering a mere 1% of the UK’s land area – a decline of 97% since the 1930s due to land use change and the harmful effects of pesticides and disease.

The work of SWEEP and initiatives such as National Meadows Day aim to raise awareness of this disturbing global trend, with around 1,400 species of pollinators and other insects relying on wildflower meadows for their survival.

These pollinators play an important role in our food systems, maintaining biodiversity and also contribute to our economy with the global economic value of crop pollination services estimated at £120 billion, and a value to the UK alone of £690 million each year.

National Meadows Day will this weekend provide an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of our magnificent but dwindling meadows, and put out a call for action to reverse the decline.

Dr Grace Twiston-Davies and Professor Juliet Osborne from the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, who lead SWEEP’s Policy for Pollinator team, will be among those taking action.

One of the strands of their ground-breaking work in the South West of the UK is exploring business-led solutions that can operate at scale to help address the decline in pollinator species, whilst also delivering wider benefits for the environment, the economy and human health and wellbeing.

The SWEEP team has worked in close collaboration with Alasdair Moore, Head of Gardens and Estate at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, to create a business case for wildflower seed production in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that supports the local biodiversity, economy and society.

The business case draws on Alasdair’s experience of establishing a stunning 15-acre annual meadow site that provides not only ample forage for pollinators and a unique attraction boosting visitor wellbeing, but proven potential to generate £18,000 worth of seed per year.

Created in 2019 as an annual wildflower meadow of corn marigold, corn cockle, cornflower and poppy, the Lost Gardens of Heligan Wildflower Project has provided hundreds of kilograms of seed to the National Wildflower Centre at the Eden Project to help with their habitat regeneration projects. 

Alasdair Moore, Head of Gardens and Estates at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, said: “Working with SWEEP on the wildflower project and business case has enabled us to deliver something that is both scientifically robust and very special. It’s rare to be able to create something that  delivers so much – that’s beautiful, enhances biodiversity, is meaningful to people, strengthens relationships with the people we work with, and is financially  productive. It all fits perfectly with the ethos of the Heligan estate”.

The Heligan Wildflower project is already inspiring other individuals and businesses to explore opportunities for growing wildflowers as part of a holistic business model for profit, people and planet such as Cusgarne Organic Farm and Trewithen Estate in Cornwall.

To ensure that this inspiring work continues, the SWEEP Policy for Pollinator team has recently created a new social enterprise company called ‘The Wildflower Collective’ and this foundational wild flower work is now being taken forward in a project funded by the Halpin Trust.

They hope that by showcasing successful business-led solutions to this decline in pollinator populations, the benefits of their work in the South West will be felt by business, bees and wider society.

‘To find out more, watch the SWEEP Wildflowers Film: The Lost Gardens of Heligan’s business case for engagement, environment and economics’.

Date: 1 July 2022

Read more University News