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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Project to reverse oxlip decline
Bardfield Oxlip
Henry Doubleday first recognised the Oxlip as a true species
An extremely rare spring flower found only in a part of East Anglia is the subject of a 21,000 Lottery money to save it from extinction.

Residents in Great Bardfield in Essex are to plant 4,000 oxlips into selected meadow sites in the parish where only 100 now remain.

Essex Wildlife Trust will train the residents of the village to manage the meadows in order to sustain the plants.

The flower is limited to an area of north west Essex, Suffolk and Cambs.

True species

Ray Tabor from the Essex Wildlife Trust said: "We think it will be a tragedy if the plant died out in such an historic site for it."

The plant - now known as the Bardfield oxlip - has a historic connection with Great Bardfield.

The Victorian botanist Henry Doubleday, in 1842 described the oxlips in Bardfield as "growing by the thousands" .

He first recognised the oxlip as a true species and not simply the result of chance hybridity between Primroses and Cowslips.

He sent samples of the plants to Charles Darwin who carried out a number of cross-pollination experiments.

Charles Darwin reported in 1869: "It is manifest that Oxlip Primula elatior is not a hybrid and that it differs fundamentally from the Common Oxlip (the Primrose / Cowslip hybrid)".

Oxlip Primula elatior's distribution is mainly confined to an area of boulder clay deposits in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire where the plants used to thrive.

A number of outlying colonies have also been identified mainly in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

A colony was also found at Dickleborough in Norfolk in the 1960s but is now thought to be extinct in the county.




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