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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Returning the Cornflower

50 years ago up to 50 species of wildflower could be found in a summer cornfield. You could see the blue of Corncockle and the gold yellow of Corn Marigold. Since then the use of agri-chemicals have brought many native species to the verge of extinction.

However, the cornflower project, a scheme on arable land at the edge of the North York Moors National Park is providing space for the rare species and also actively promoting their expansion.

The project was started in 1998 Its original objectives were as follows: -
1. Find and retrieve locally diminishing species of the local cornfield flora
2. Create locations and seed resources where they can be retained in perpetuity
3. Enable wider appreciation of this group of plants and their essential role in retaining ecological diversity
4. Make available seed, plants and advice to other land users.

Seed was sown in two locations. The first is a 24-acre corn field in village of Silpho and is part of a comercial farm. The second is a quarter-acre field at the Ryedale Folk Museum at Hutton-le-Hole, near Pickering. Also 20 local farmers have signed up to fill at least part of their land with these traditional annuals.

The found trusts Ian Carstairs says

Nobody else has tried to tackle this problem this way. Elsewhere, people have looked after plants where they exist, but we have gone out to find those that remain and – without harming the local population – we have multiplied them and moved them on to other suitable places.

The original plan was to get them back from the brink. We have achieved that, and with a much wider range of species than we had hoped. Now we are looking at getting them out of intensive care by spreading them to as many locations as possible as insurance for their future.

We shall never return the fields to how they were in the past – farms have to be run commercially – but there is an acceptance that this has a place alongside mainstream arable production.

I have to admit you seldom see a really a good display of Wild flowers these days. When you do its a memorable experience, I remember seeing one by Everton church in Cambridgeshire the varieties and colours was a revelation at the time.


Liz said...

A number of areas in sheffield are also planting wildflower meadows, last year I believe it was there was an article on countryfile where the spare land next to the trams had been sown with wildflowers such as cornflower, scabious and such. Even in new developments they’ve sown wildflower like in this image:

And this is similar:
Although obviously the Californian poppies are not natives it’s still spectacular!

I think it’s a wonderful idea, far better than the typical Victorian planting schemes which look horrible – busy Lizzies makes me want to poke my eyes out with a stick. I just wish they’d also do this in the city centre as unfortunately impatents still monopolise.

oldcrow61 said...

This cheers me up, to know there are people who care about such things.

ShySongbird said...

Wonderful, definitely the way to go!