Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Its all gone yellow!

Many traditional arable weeds have declined hugely or dissappeared completely due to changes in agricultural methods in the last 60 years. Corn marigold still survives here and there, but is much, much less common than it was.

It is very rare now to see so many corn marigolds in an arable field like in this picure from Bamburgh. There is an interesting story behind this. Steve Pullan sent me these pictures and explained what happened. Steve and I used to work together at RDS setting up agri-environment schemes and Steve still does this work for Natural England. These fields have been in arable for a long time, but for the last 4 years they have been managed organically, which has allowed some corn marigolds to germinate from the seedbank and grow in the crop. You can see quite a few corn marigolds in the foreground, but there is a continuous sea of deep yellow in the background.

This field has some interesting archaeology below the ground and so the field is in the process of being converted from arable to grassland to protect the archaeology. A grass and clover mix has been sown and the cultivation method encouraged the corn marigolds to germinate. There must have been many thousands of corn marigold seeds in the soil for years waiting for their opportunity. Of course, as the field will be a grassland in future, the corn marigolds are likely to dissappear in a few years once the sward closes up. But there will be lots of seeds produced this year that will lie in the soil waiting for the soil to be disturbed again.

In the latest edition of Stace's flora from last year, several common plants have been given new scientific names. We now have to call corn marigold Glebionis segetum which sounds very odd when you are used to the old name Chrysanthemum segetum. I guess we will have to get used to it, but you see the plant so rarely nowadays that there is lots of time to forget the new name before you see it again.




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