Farm­ers help our for­got­ten flow­ers

The Field - - News -

Con­ser­va­tion char­ity Plantlife is work­ing with 50 farm­ers across the coun­try to save 13 arable flow­ers. Farm­land flow­ers have de­clined by 96% over the past 200 years and many – in­clud­ing the pheas­ant’s-eye (pic­tured) – are only seen in lo­calised pock­ets.

Once a com­mon fea­ture in corn­fields, this strik­ing red flower was so abun­dant it was sold at Covent Gar­den mar­ket as

“red Morocco”. To­day, it is only seen on the chalky soil of Wilt­shire and Hamp­shire, es­pe­cially around Sal­is­bury Plain and Por­ton Down, where it flour­ishes on the undis­turbed mil­i­tary grounds.

Plantlife has joined forces with the RSPB and Kew to launch the “Colour in the Mar­gins” project, which aims to re­store Eng­land’s dwin­dling arable wildlife habi­tat. Farm­ers in arable hotspots are en­cour­aged to leave cor­ners and edges of a field un­cut or un­sprayed to help con­serve the most threat­ened species.

The project is funded by the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund with sup­port from Nat­u­ral Eng­land and Re­think Na­ture.

“Arable wild­flow­ers, such as pheas­ant’seye and corn but­ter­cup, are an im­por­tant part of our wildlife her­itage. These plucky, tena­cious flow­ers should be as much a part of our arable farm­land as the crops they grow along­side,” said Mar­ian Spain, Plantlife CEO.

This au­tumn, ex­per­i­men­tal plots will be es­tab­lished at the char­ity’s Ranscombe Farm na­ture re­serve in Kent. Seeds of the 13 species in the project will be in­tro­duced and var­i­ous man­age­ment prac­tices tried to see which works best. The most suc­cess­ful will be rolled out across the re­serve.

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