Look for boomrape among broad beans
When I find some spare time, I try to visit other parts of Kent particularly to look for rare or declining plants. One area I visited recently was the Kent Downs to the west of Snodland, near Maidstone, to look for a rare plant called bean broomrape. This is parasitic and sprouts up in broad bean crops in recent years. Millions of plants appeared in the crop about four years ago and I have been keeping an eye out to see if it has reappeared. So last week with two keen botany friends we spotted a broad bean field while driving in the rough 10-mile square area broomrape had been seen in previous years. We found a public footpath across the field and there were good quantities of the bean broomrape itself. This species is very large (up to 40cm tall) and with big showy light purple flowers with the occasional cream coloured individual as well. Broomrapes tap into a plant host. They do not have any chlorophyll and so steal it from another plant and its water to survive. Other species of broomrapes include bedstraw, ivy, knapweed and oxtongue broomrape. Keep an eye out in the broad bean crops in east Kent to see if it appears and let me know.
For more information contact Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership, telephone 01797 367934 or log on to www.rmcp.co.uk