St Andrews Botanic Garden is leading the Green Corridors project to restore habitats and manage invasive species along two habitat corridors in St Andrews.

In partnership with Fife Council, University of St Andrews and Buglife, we are monitoring the spread of species such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed all the way from Craigtoun Park, along the Kinness Burn, through the Botanic Gardens and many public spaces like Cockshaugh Park and the University’s North Haugh campus.

The project is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and will see the planting of hundreds of trees around St Andrews in 2020 and 2021 and the publication of a pioneering, landscape-scale Biosecurity Management Plan for the town.

You can read an article on the project in Fife Today here.

In the first phase of the project, we have delivered packets of seeds to about 500 houses in the area between the corridors and in nearby locations. If you’ve had one of these through your door, you can use it to grow a patch of wildflower meadow in your garden that will help improve habitat connectivity across St Andrews. The packets contain the ‘Urban Pollinators’ mix from Scotia seeds – a 100% native mix of wildflowers and grasses. For a PDF of the full list of species in the mix, click here.

Instructions:

  1. Sow seeds in June or wait until mid-August to late September.
  2. If possible, choose an area that is free of fast-growing perennials like dock or ground elder, which could quickly out-compete your meadow plants.
  3. Rake the soil to prepare a fine seed bed.
  4. Mix the seeds well and throw a pinch at a time across the soil surface.
  5. Once all the seeds are distributed, briefly trample the plot to help the seeds make contact with the soil, but don’t overdo it. Keep the bed watered in dry weather but don’t add fertiliser – meadow plants prefer nutrient-poor soils.
  6. The range of plants flowering will change over the first couple of years, and growth will become more dense. Cut your meadow once a year in September, removing the clippings for compost.

For more detailed instructions on how to sow and care for your wildflower patch, click here.

If you haven’t received a packet of seeds from us, don’t worry! You can still help to create a patch of wildflower meadow in your garden. In fact, you can do this without sowing any seeds at all, although it will take a little longer. This website from Plantlife describes how to grow a wildflower patch in your garden, whatever your starting point.

The seeds in the Green Corridors packets are all from species native to Scotland. There has been a lot of interest recently in the pros and cons of using non-native flowers in urban settings. Read more here.

Could you plant a tree?

We are looking for 30-50 households in and around the corridor sites who could plant a tree sapling in their gardens. The young trees are all native to Scotland and will over time will grow to provide home, food and shelter to other species, from lichens and mosses to invertebrates, birds and mammals. The species available are pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis) and bird cherry (Prunus avium).

If you could find space for a tree in your garden, send an email to info@standrewsbotanic.org.

The Green Corridors project will send ecologists and volunteers out into the Kinness Burn and North Haugh corridors to identify and remove invasive species growing along the corridors. You can volunteer to help with these tasks – keep an eye on our volunteers page – but you can play just as important a role by looking out for invasive species in your own garden or in other parts of St Andrews.

We will concentrate on three species: giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. All three are attractive plants with fascinating adaptations that help them to compete successfully in their natural ranges. Growing outside these ranges they can crowd out local flora and disrupt ecological relationships that have evolved over thousands of years without them. These plants grow at several locations in St Andrews, including along the Kinness and Swilken burns. The burns and their ‘green corridors’ provide much needed cover for wildlife moving around St Andrews. Because these invasive species grow and spread so well at riverbank locations, they can quickly take over these sensitive sites.

You can help by learning to recognising these species in your own garden and around town so that we can remove the plants and stop them spreading back into sensitive habitat corridors.

Let us know if you have seen these plants! Email us at info@standrewsbotanic.org

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)

A fast-growing annual native to the western Himalayas, this plant that can quickly outcompete local flora in the riverside habitats it prefers. In the absence of its natural enemies, Himalayan balsam competes very successfully for light and space and for the attention of pollinators. It grows in large patches that die back after the growing season and can leave exposed soil that is then vulnerable to bank erosion

Himalayan balsam fact sheet

Download the identification sheet (pdf) showing how to recognise Himalayan Balsam at all times of the year.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Another annual plant, this time native to the Caucasus mountains in Russia and Georgia, giant hogweed looks like our native hogweed in early stages of growth but is unmistakably enormous when fully grown. Like Himalayan balsam, it can outcompete local flora and contribute to erosion along water courses.

Giant hogweed sap contains chemicals called furanocoumarins that cause skin to blister painfully in sunlight. Read more about this formidable defence mechanism here. Never touch or try to remove giant hogweed without seeking professional advice.

Giant hogweed fact sheet

Download the identification sheet for giant hogweed.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Japanese knotweed is not an annual species and doesn’t even produce seeds when growing in the UK, instead spreading via underground rhizomes. The dense bamboo-like growth quickly shades other plants and the rhizomes allow the plant to relocate resources quickly and to grow through hard surfaces like pavements and masonry.

Japanese knotweed factsheet

Download the identification sheet for Japanese Knotweed.