Agrostemma githago   Corncockle I

Agrostemma githago Agrostemma githago close

This has been known as a weed of old cornfields but according to Stace it is an introduction which is surprising (to me anyway).

There is usually some Corncockle to be seen here and there but it is usually in a freshly sown "wild flower meadow" in other words the result of some well-intentioned countryside gardening. Since virtually all of our arable fields are treated with fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides I had quite given up the idea that I would ever see this plant in its natural habitat.

Here at Ranscombe Farm there is a field right in the middle which is out of sight and surrounded by woodland. The farmer has used old methods of crop production and Agrostemma still survive in large numbers as it must have done in the old days before agricultural chemicals came to stay. Plantlife pay the farmer to carry on the way he has been doing and the crop isn't actually harvested for commercial purposes. This is just as well for the seeds of Corncockle contain poisonous saponins. Swathes of purpley pink flowers in their thousands can be seen here and this is a genuine wild flower cornfield - I'm not sure there is another like it anywhere.

According to BSBI there are still many sites in the British Isles where Corncockle grows but this depends on whether you count old seeded wild flower meadows. I'm sure there is quite a lot of Corncockle about but I'm equally sure that most of it has been planted.

Ranscombe Farm, Kent 3rd July 2007

Added on 10th June 07, updated 21st June 08, updated 21st Feb 10, updated Se3 22nd Apr 10

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