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Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 14:41 UK
Rare plant found in the Cotswolds

Red hemp nettle
The red hemp nettle is found at fewer than 30 locations in the UK

A rare wild flower has been discovered on a luxury holiday home development in the Cotswolds.

Landscape and ecology manager Benedict Pollard spotted the rare red hemp nettle outside one of the homes at the development, known as 'The Lakes by yoo', near Fairford.

A member of the mint family, the wild flower is classified as critically endangered and is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

"I was speaking to one of the owners when I noted a plant I didn't recognise," said Benedict. "It's not big or showy but it is special. I wasn't expecting to find anything rare."

Now the wild flower has been positively identified and Benedict is gathering seeds from the sole plant.

It is protected by a small fence and he has placed fleece around its base where he painstakingly collects the tiny black seeds with specialist tweezers.


A third of the seeds will go to Kew Gardens to be stored at the Millennium Seed Bank for long-term conservation.

The rest will be used by 'The Lakes by yoo', a 650-acre holiday home development, to establish a protected colony.

Gravel quarrying has been largely responsible for the creating the network of more than 130 lakes in the Cotswolds.

Benedict, who has carried out conservation work for Kew, believes the seeds have been lying dormant in the soil on the site and that building work has encouraged its growth.

Red hemp nettles used to grow in the margins of fields. It prefers light, chalky soil or coastal shingle.

Its numbers have declined dramatically in the last 60 years due to increased use of nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides and changing farming techniques.

Autumn cultivation has mean that the annual plant is destroyed before it has a chance to set seed.

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