Monday, 28 April 2014

Guest Blog from Tom Normandale, Project Officer of the Cornfield Flowers Project

 Flowers Project

Cornfield Flowers Project at Ryedale Folk Museum - saving rare arable flowers from extinction in North-east Yorkshire

As spring takes hold and the natural world awakes from its winter slumber, the first signs of some of the UK’s rarest wildflowers are eagerly awaited in a corner of the Ryedale Folk Museum.
In front of the roundhouse is the Cornfield Flowers Project demonstration field.  For much of the year, this is bare earth with little to hint at the value of the seeds that lie beneath.  By summer time though, this field will be a blast of colourful plants growing amongst a cereal crop, and provides an accessible display of some of the most endangered arable wildflowers in North Yorkshire and the UK.

Demonstration field in full bloom at Ryedale Folk Museum

The museum has supported our Project since its beginnings, and has been our public face throughout this time – raising awareness of the plight of arable wildflowers and providing a rare opportunity to see these declining plants in both the demonstration field and our nursery bed next to the vegetable garden.

The hard facts behind the plight of these cornfield flowers are stark.  Of the UK’s rarest wildflowers that have suffered the greatest declines in the last 50 years, 60% are arable plants.  Seven have become extinct during this period, and a further 54 are considered at risk.  Since its creation in 1999, our Project has had the single aim of reversing this decline in north-east Yorkshire.  Through a network of dedicated volunteers and local farmers, we have been able to gradually locate, nurture and reintroduce many of these plants across the area, and 15-years on the results are more encouraging than ever.

The real stars of the show are the plants themselves, and within the museum you will find a wide array of rare specialists.  From the bright-yellow flowers of Corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis) and the needle-like seed pods of Shepherd’s-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris) – two of the UK’s most endangered plants - to the endearing but fleeting Prickly poppy (Papaver argemone), the match-head sized blooms of Sharp-leaved fluellen (Kickxia elatine) and of course the iconic Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), all these, and many others, can be seen first-hand.

Corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis)

Shepherd's-needle (Scandix pecten-veneris) seed pods

Prickly poppy (Papaver argemone)

Sharp-leaved fluellen (Kickxia elatine)

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

We can never afford to be complacent though, and sadly the survival of cornfield flowers perpetually hangs in the balance.  As we look to the longer term future of these species, and our Project’s presence at the Ryedale Folk Museum, our hope is that we can continue to enthuse enough people to successfully care for these sometimes under-appreciated, but always deeply enchanting, true rarities.

For more information on the Cornfield Flowers Project see our rolling presentation in the museum entrance, our information panels by the nursery bed and demonstration field, or our website:

Chris Wilson – Project Officer                                        Tom Normandale – Project Officer
Cornfield Flowers Project                                               Cornfield Flowers Project
01723 863467                                                               

The Cornfield Flowers Project is spearheaded by the Carstairs Countryside Trust, Ryedale Folk Museum, North Yorkshire Moors Association and North York Moors National Park Authority.  It is supported by the North York Moors National Park Sustainable Development Fund, North York Moors Coast & Hills LEADER Programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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