Farmers help our forgotten flowers
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.