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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Experts fear for popular flowers
Corcockle, BBC
Few corncockles are now seen in the wild
Some of the most beloved British summer wildflowers are in fact, the most endangered, according to the botanical charity Plantlife International.

Researchers say arable plants, a group which includes poppies and buttercups, have shown the greatest decline of any type of British flora.

The group is urging farmers to count the arable plants on their land to create an accurate national survey.

BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee says scientists are worried that many of these plants - once considered weeds - have declined to the point of extinction.

Deep seeds

"With names like weasel's snout, dwarf spurge and broad fruited cornsalad, some arable plants sound as if their proper place is in a Shakespearian witches' cauldron," she said.

Modern industrial farming techniques have now pushed many arable "weeds" close to extinction.

"They find it almost impossible to survive in intensively cultivated farmland, and are susceptible to many herbicides.

"But if farmers are prepared to allow field edges to grow wild and leave some corners uncultivated, they will grow back."

Researchers at Plantlife International say deep ploughing can bring back long-buried seeds - encouraging the return of butterflies, bees and a host of other wildlife will follow.

The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee
"Intensive agriculture has left little room for arable plants"

English wild plant variety wanes
01 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
UK search starts for farmland flowers
20 Jul 03  |  Science/Nature
Emblems of a lost England
08 Jul 03  |  Science/Nature
British plant 'bible' published
17 Sep 02  |  Science/Nature
English meadows 'declining fast'
13 May 02  |  Science/Nature

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