The cornfield flower project
The Cornfield Flowers Project has worked tirelessly for over fifteen years to bring back from the edge of extinction numerous arable flower species that were once an integral part of our North Yorkshire landscape. Beginning in some cases with only a single plant, staff and volunteers in numerous organisations have worked to find, preserve, promote and spread almost 100 species of locally and nationally rare species across North East Yorkshire. Many of these have weird and wonderful names, such as Venus’s looking-glass, Shepherd’s needle, Weasel snout, Prickly poppy, Narrow-fruited cornsalad and Dwarf spurge, along with more recognisable ones such as Corn marigold, Corn cockle and Cornflower, which are growing once again in farmer’s fields where they may have once been common.
But the work of the project is far from over and the project partners are keen to expand the knowledge of these rare plants to a much wider audience than just farmers and land owners, and allow them to be appreciated by communities as well. We are keen to use the next chapter in the Cornfields Flower Project to explore the positive relationship between nature and health, and involve new groups in the conservation of these rare plants that were once so abundant in our countryside.
This project follows on from two previously funded HLF projects: “Cornfield Flowers – Back from the Brink” worked to prevent these species from local extinction. “Cornfield Flowers – Out of Intensive Care” built on this work to widen the list of species being conserved and the number of farms growing them in their arable margins, and raising awareness of the status of these rare flowers. We hope that this project “Into the Community,” will help stabilise the populations of a number of cornfield flower species by increasing the number of sites they are present at on farms and in towns and villages, raise awareness of them to new communities, and increase the number of people getting hands on with their conservation.
This project will focus on about a dozen species that will be best suited to be grown by volunteers in urban environments to support the farms involved in the Cornfield Flower Project and would make a stunning display as part of town planting schemes, including:
– Prickly poppy
– Babington’s poppy/ Yellow-juiced poppy (this has already been found at the allotment site but was not known about)
– Corn poppy (this has already been found at the allotment site but was not known about)
– Cornflower (Species of Principal Importance, formally UKBAP Priority Species)
– Corn marigold
– Corn buttercup (Species of Principal Importance, formally UKBAP Priority Species)
– Common fiddleneck
– Night-flowering catchfly
– Small-flowered catchfly? (Species of Principal Importance, formally UKBAP Priority Species)
– Venus’s looking glass
– Red dead-nettle – plants have already been provided from an existing Cornfield Flowers Project volunteer who had too many in her garden.
Others may be introduced depending on the success of the above species or the need of local farmers. The Cornfield Flowers Project also includes rare grassland species, so the project will explore introducing a native meadow mix from Silpho in the North York Moors that has acted as a nursery site over the many years of the project.
There is a natural environment need regarding the rare cornfield flowers on identifying new sites where the plants can be grown and cultivated over the long term to expand their networks and create a more secure future for these species in North East Yorkshire. The urban sites identified by this project will also allow the species to be more visual to the public, allowing the flowers to be appreciated by a wider audience and raise awareness on the work of the partnership and show people how they can be involved in nature conservation.
There is also a health need, with cultivation of the cornfield flowers providing an opportunity for Next Steps clients and volunteers to learn new skills, create safe and secure places and provide opportunities to reduce depression, stress and other mental health issues for free in their locality.
This project will draw these two needs together by creating opportunities for new audiences to learn about and get involved in the preservation of cornfield flowers, benefiting their own health as well as the long term survival of these species at r