Rural Reading: Baby rabbits everywhereBy Adrian Lawson
May 25, 2012
I don’t know if you have noticed, but there are rabbits everywhere at the moment, tons of little baby rabbits emerging from their warrens to nibble some grass.
This is good news in a way. Lots of places where there a lots of rabbits have become great places for wildflowers. Rabbits eat the grass and some plants, but there are lots of plants they don’t like.
It happens that they don’t like the taste of one of my favourite wildflowers, the cowslip. So by nibbling the grass around them, they allow the cowslips to thrive.
A few years ago it was quite hard to find them, the pastures where they used to thrive were ruined by intensive farming. On unspoilt pasture, which itself is a scarce habitat, cowslips jostled and still do with bee orchids and common spotted orchids, and many other beautiful wildflowers.
The resurgence of countless rabbits has turned quite a few areas into ideal places for some wildflowers, and year after year these places get better and better. They are usually small, often by hedgerows and roadsides, but no less special for that.
I have had a little hand in this. I habitually collect some seed from some plants, cowslips are one, and sow them nearby, if there is some rabbit grazing to be seen.
It seems to have had no effect on the patches where I have collected the seed, there is more than enough seed left for many new plants to grow, they are doing well. But on some nearby patches of ground more cowslips are growing, where they haven’t grown before that I know of.
I know from some people older than me that cowslips used to be common around here. A few attempts to get them to grow in some of the meadows around the town have failed as the grass has been left to grow too long, smothering them. But with the help of the rabbits and a bit of surreptitious seed sowing in places where they graze, they are making a comeback.
But I am not the only one giving them a hand, someone or something is also spreading seeds. I keep finding cowlsips in many more places where they haven’t flowered in recent years. As the summer approaches more wildflowers might appear in these places, for the rabbits to look after.