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Scotland’s forgotten farmland flowers

Plantlife calls on farmers to help stop some of Scotland’s most threatened wild flowers from disappearing from the countryside.

August 22 2012

Small-flowered catchfly, one of Scottish rarities under threat. © Andrew Gagg / Plantlife

Small-flowered catchfly, one of Scottish rarities under threat. © Andrew Gagg / Plantlife

Over the last 50 years, Scotland has seen a dramatic decline in cornfield flowers, such as cornflower and corn marigold.

Today, many species in Scotland are on the brink of extinction. Often overlooked and sometimes difficult to identify, arable plants depend on farming to survive but are also threatened by it. Yet all is not lost, Plantlife Scotland has published a new, simple management guide for farmers who want to help their farmland flora flourish once again.

Deborah Long from Plantlife Scotland explains “Arable plants are some of our most well loved but also some of our most threatened flowers. Red poppies that help us remember fallen soldiers are iconic and part of our cultural history yet are less of a common sight in Scotland nowadays. Many arable flowers have all but vanished from the Scottish countryside. In small hidden fields corn marigolds still put on magnificent displays but Scottish rarities like small-flowered catchfly, corn buttercup, and field madder are in a perilous state. Our new management guide offers simple techniques for farmers and land managers across Scotland who want to do more to help arable plants.”

Luke Gaskell of Kittyfield Farm on the Scottish Borders says “Managing these plants can be an interesting challenge. Yet their presence certainly doesn’t need to damage profitability and we get to enjoy the plants that grow on the farm. It’s particularly rewarding to see really uncommon species thriving because of the way we manage our land.”

Farmland Flora Facts:

  • Cornfield flowers are essential for a whole range of farmland wildlife, providing both nectar and pollen for bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators, and a seed resource for threatened farmland birds like skylark and yellowhammer.
  • Scotland’s arable landscapes are home to some of the rarest plants in the UK such as corn spurry, and thorow-wax but even these species could flourish again with simple management changes. These measures can be done voluntarily by leaving uncropped margins and cereal headlands without spraying herbicide.
  • Farmland flowers need appropriate support through the government’s agri-environment scheme. Plantlife is currently working with Scottish Government to try to ensure the Rural Development Scheme in future can provide for plants. In spring next year, Plantlife will be publishing a new report on the future for farmland flowers in Scotland.

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