Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Flagging-up Flowers!

It’s the beginning of a pretty packed summer for the Colour in the Margins team visiting around 75 reintroduction sites scattered across England. The species we’ve sown include Pheasant’s-eye, Corn Buttercup, Small-flowered Catchfly, Spreading Hedge-parsley, Red Hemp-nettle, Broad-fruited Cornsalad and Broad-leaved Cudweed. Last year, even with covid, the team did a fantastic job managing to visit most sites which, overall, were positive for the reintroduced species. We’re hoping for similar success for the reintroductions in their second year and our fingers are crossed that there will be plants present at the new reintroduction plots sown last autumn and this spring.

The cold weather has held back flowering and we’re finding that plots at exposed locations are 2-3 weeks behind, and even sheltered locations are a week behind. Last year was exceptionally early so this is a very dramatic change, showing that patience is required! Pheasant’s-eye is particularly difficult to find as the plants are usually in flower and easy to find at the beginning of May, but this year the leaves are being hidden amongst mayweeds.

So far in 2021, we’ve had huge success with 6 out of 8 Pheasant’s-eye reintroductions being successful, one with an amazing 213+ plants from 5000 seeds (this is a 4% germination rate). We’ve also had great success with Corn Buttercup in Cambridgeshire with over 1800 plants at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, and Small-flowered Catchfly in Cornwall at RSPB Labrador Bay and Dawlish Countryside Park.


Red flags marking Pheasant's-eye (Adonis annua). This rare 'arable weed' is threatened with extinction in the UK. Hampshire, UK. May.

 


Alison Mitchell didn’t have nearly enough yellow flags marking some of the 1800 Corn Buttercups. She definitely needed help by a couple of volunteers who are going to take on the monitoring of the reintroduction plots after the project finishes this year.

 


Hannah Gibbons has marked all the Small-flowered Catchfly plants with blue flags. They’re in a Cirl Bunting plot (no Cirl Buntings present at the time), and the flags caused a bit of a stir by passers by asking if it was a G7 protest or whether she was trying to scare the birds away!

 

Cath Shellswell

Colour in the Margins Manager and Farmland Adviser

 

Colour in the Margins is part of the Back from the Brink programme, funded by the National Lottery, and led by Plantlife in partnership with the RSPB.

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