Seed vacuuming to promote biodiversity

Seed harvesting on the Bath Skyline to improve plant diversity

The Bath Skyline ranger team are vacuuming up wild flower seed to spread over the meadows and improve plant diversity. The seed collector, that looks and works just like a vacuum cleaner, is being used to collect the seed of the yellow rattle plant. Yellow rattle acts as a parasite on the roots of grasses, and causes them to grow less vigorously, so allowing more space for other plants. It is hoped that by developing yellow rattle on other areas of the Bath Skyline, a more diverse wildflower-rich grassland will develop, and provide an ideal habitat for pollinating insects to flourish.

Assistant ranger Tabi Collins explains all.

In the last few years the team have been collecting yellow rattle seed (Rhinanthus minor) by hand, a process that provides a purer harvest but is slow, and labour-intensive. So this year’s loan of a seed-harvester from the Avon Wildlife Trust has enabled the team of rangers and volunteers to cover much more ground, in the short window between the seed ripening and it being released by the plant.

The work is being championed by Assistant Ranger Tabi, who has been visiting other local National Trust sites, to investigate methods of seed collection. This project is contributing to the National Trust's work of managing the land in a way that is sensitive to the needs of both the environment and farming, helping to restore the health and beauty of the countryside and bring back a wildlife rich landscape.

So when the ‘vacuuming’ is complete, the seed will be dried and stored until winter, when it will be spread on the areas of the Skyline that need a little helping hand – to subdue the grasses, and allow space for the more delicate wildflowers to shine through.