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Forgotten farmland flowers

Plantlife calls on farmers to help some of England’s most threatened wild flowers that are disappearing from the countryside.

August 01 2012

Over the last 50 years there has been a dramatic decline in arable plants in England, and they are now our most threatened flowers.

Intensive farming practices including the widespread use of herbicides and fertilizers have all taken there toll, leaving many arable plants on the verge of extinction. Yet all is not lost, Plantlife have published a simple management guide for farmers that can help their farmland flora flourish once again.

Cath Shellswell, Plantlife's Farmland Project Officer, explains “Arable plants are some of our most well loved but also some of our most threatened flowers. The red poppies that that help us remember our fallen soldiers are iconic and part or our cultural history yet many arable plants have all but vanished from the English countryside. In small hidden fields corn marigolds still put on magnificent displays but other rarities like Red Hemp-nettle, Corn Buttercup, Corn Chamomile and Stinking Camomile are in a perilous state and even though these plants rely on arable farming to survive they are also threatened by it. Our management guide offers simple advice for farmers and land managers across England who want to do more to help arable plants.”

Farmland Flora Facts:

  • Cornfield flowers are essential for a whole range of farmland wildlife, providing both nectar and pollen resources for bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators and a seed resource for farmland birds like skylark and yellow hammer.
  • Many farmland flowers have cultural and historic importance. Pheasant’s-eye for example was gathered in large quantities in the late 18th century from the Sussex Downs and sold at Covent Garden as a cut flower. And who doesn’t know the shade cornflower blue?
  • Very simple management will allow arable plants to once again flourish around and throughout cereal fields. These measures can be done voluntarily by leaving uncropped margins and cereal headlands without spraying herbicide. Financial assistance is available for farmers through the Environmental Stewardship agri-environment scheme.

For more information please contact: Justina Simpson on 07833 700 177 or email