Oxeye daisy

We would love to see drifts of summery oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) in the reserve’s fields but there is a problem.

Our fields are not wildflower meadows managed to encourage diversity: they are hayfields, cut to maximise our tenant farmer’s crop. Oxeye daises flower from May until September but the bulk of them flower in June and don’t get time to set their seed before the fields are cut for hay in July.

Some plants will struggle back for a second flowering later in the summer but our farmer, more often than not, takes a second crop from some of the fields in September. Once again, the daisies are cut before they can seed.

Oxeye daisies don’t have to make seed to reproduce, though: they can propagate vegetatively, spreading slowly from the roots into clusters and drifts, all genetically identical. This is what has been happening in the little triangular field that doesn’t have a name, where the daisies are, year by year, spreading out from a single plant at the top of the field.

Once established, even cloned daisies will flower over a period of a couple of weeks and the very earliest of the flowers are able to make seed before the tractors and mowers arrive. It has been slow work, but the result is looking good this year and adds beautifully to the reserve’s diversity; our fields are buzzing with life.

Header picture: oxeye daisy © Simon Knight

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