For several years, we have been trying to establish cowslips in the reserve’s fields but with only a little success. The problem is timing.
Our fields are hayfields: they are mown by our tenant farmer at least once in the summer. To flourish anywhere other than in the fields’ headlands, spring-flowering species have to bloom, make and disperse their seed all before the farmer’s first cut – and climate change is bringing that first cut forward every year.
Of course, climate change is also bringing forward the cowslips’ flowering period but not quite fast enough for it to avoid losing its seed to the mower.
We have planted cowslip seed and seedlings in the fields’ verges but neither has thrived: too much shade and the footfall in these areas is too heavy. Cowslips prefer open grassland, preferably grazed grassland, and we can’t provide that.
We should probably give up but they are SO beautiful.