Connecting for Nature

Keeping Yorkshire folk in touch with their local biodiversity news

Learning more about Rare Arable Flora

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A cultivated margin for arable flora, being surveyed by volunteers at Staxton, near Scarborough.

In the Local Biodiversity Action Plan for Scarborough, an action plan was devised for Rare Flowers. The Ryedale BAP created a Species Action Plan for Threatened Arable Flowers. Broadly speaking the modern intensive methods of arable cropping, with earlier harvest, and widespread use of herbicides to produce cleaner crops and heavier yields has resulted in fewer opportunities for this group of plants which once were regarded as commonplace arable weeds – cornfield weeds if you will, to grow within our countryside. Arable flora will certainly continue to have a place in future action plans of the Connecting for Nature Partnership – across Ryedale, Scarborough and Howardian Hills.

A number of years ago The Cornfield Flowers Project, with support from the North York Moors National Park Authority, Heritage Lottery Fund and others, took steps to rescue these species rom the brink of extinction in North and East Yorkshire, and it was very successful in doing so. The Cornfield Flowers Project has been through several phases of funding and tackled a number of engagement and education projects, with schools, farmers, and the general public over the years, whilst propagating plants, bulking up seed stocks and creating living arks on widely scattered farms across north and east Yorkshire. Currently, interested parties are exploring ways to keep the project viable and spread the message and acquired knowledge of species, their preferences and their propagation needs. We will keep you posted on news of the latest incarnation of the Cornfield Flowers Project.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more a great starting place is the Species Cards produced by the Cornfield Flowers Project. This fantastic resource of over one hundred illustrated pdfs, free to download, is kindly hosted on the Carstairs Countryside Trust website
I would say its a great legacy of #CornfieldFlowersProject‘s early years, but the project is still ticking over and we hope it will come back soon with renewed vigour, as so much has been learned by the participating farmers and volunteers in north-east Yorkshire.
Even if you know nothing of our heritage of theatened arable flora, check out the fabulous evocative names…like Weasel’s Snout, Pheasant’s Eye, Treacle-mustard and Fiddleneck! Here is the link to the full list of species cards

Screen grab of part of one of the PDFs produced by the Cornfield Flowers Trust.

In places the species cards reveal a dry humour which can be safely attributed to Chris Wilson, one of the founding figures of the project and still today care-taking the Cornfield Flowers Project while fresh funding is explored. I love this comment, for example on the Species Card for Fiddleneck, revealing Chris as both farmer and botanist:

“If you wish to see this plant you should go to Glebe Farm at Potter Brompton. There, growing on the sand, you will find thousands of plants and John Middlewood will be pleased to give you great armfuls of it to take home to determine the subspecies…”
Or how about this one in the entry for Yellow-Juiced Poppy, distinguished from a very similar species by the bright yellow (as opposed to milky-white) sap exuding from the young flowering stem when broken:
“The Yellow-Juiced Poppy has inadvertently been responsible for the death of many thousands of Long Headed Poppies as botanists check this key character…”
Chris is also eminently pragmatic, here from the Corn Mint Species Card is a small example I liked on his experience of the effect of herbicides on non target species in adjacent margins.
“…In future when we use glyphosate we need to give protection to the susceptible species. One easy way of doing this is to cover the plants to be protected with a bucket or plastic sheet.”
That, for me, is classic Chris Wilson.
I have much to learn from these species dossiers on the local intelligence gained by the Cornfield Flowers Project on arable flora conservation. Please excuse me now, I have some reading to do…;)

Author: Tim Burkinshaw

I work in ecology and biodiversity in North Yorkshire. I'm often found outdoors snapping nature and landscapes or spotting birds. In the garden I enjoy having my hands in the earth and striving for the perfect mix of greens and browns in my compost. As a Daddy and adopter I'm used to endless questions about the world around us, and generally have an answer up my sleeve for most things. If you spot me and my hat in real life or on social media do say hello!

One thought on “Learning more about Rare Arable Flora

  1. Pingback: Turtle Dove project update | Connecting for Nature

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