Friday, 3 July 2015


While taking the pictures of Kidney Vetch I thought I would also take a few of the "extinct" species that has appeared on Banstead Downs this summer.   About a month ago, I found a couple of plants of Corncockle (Agrostemma githago) growing on a patch of bare chalk. exposed where bonfire ash had been buried.  Corncockle is one of those species, including Poppies and Cornflower, referred to as cornfield weeds, annuals that do not compete well with other species and hence tend to grow on disturbed soil.  Modern agricultural practivce has virtually eradicated them.   It would be nice to think that these plants germinated from seed buried since the Downs were cultivated during WW2 and is a genuine wild plant.  Unfortunately the fact that it was growing very vigorously and associated with equally vigorous Poppy plants suggests that someone may have scattered some "wildflower" seed.  It is a beautiful flower nevertheless.

Amusingly, when I Googled the status of the species on the web, the first pages to come up included this example of newspaper nonsense from last summer.  Equally apparently the BBC Countryfile programme caused a bit of a stir as well!  So sad.