A look at the Rarest British Wildflowers

As in most civilized places on planet Earth, many of Britain’s wildflowers have become threatened and rare. Some examples of rare field flowers of Britain include the field poppy (papaver rhoeas), fritillary (fritillaria meleagris), and corncockle (agrostemma githago).

The field poppy is the same one associated with the famous poem “In Flanders’ Fields”.  However, they have been famous since ancient Roman times. “Poppies were associated with cornfields in ancient times. Ceres, Roman goddess of corn, was depicted wearing a wreath of field poppies.”The fritillary is 20-30 cms in height, flowering in April- May. “In the early 20th century, the chequered purple flowers of the fritillary were common in wet meadows, but draining, ploughing and fertilisers have greatly reduced the areas where they can grow,” The corncockle has reddish-purple flowers with divided petals. Unfortunately, the corconcockle’s “seeds become mixed with corn and lower the quality of the flour.” “The plants are 30-100 cm in height and appear June-August”, where they can be found. Unfortunately for the environmentally-minded botanist, “Improved agricultural techniques have made tis pretty flower increasingly rare.”

Species of rare wildflowers found in British woodlands icclude wild daffodil (narcissus pseudonarcissus), cyclamen (cyclamen hederifolium), and lady’s slipper (cypripedium calceoulus). When William Wordswoth wrote his famous poem, “The Daffodils”, he was likely referring to the wild daffodils. “Carpets of delicate yellow wild daffodils in damp woods and grasslands were once a common sight in springtime.” In modern times, advanced farming techniques have changed this. “Drainage, pasture improvement, woodland clearing, and people digging up bulbs have all contributed to its decline.” Formerly, daffodil bulbs were an important medicinal source. “In the 17th century, the daffodil bulbs were used as a medicine for various ailments. Ground-up bulb mixed with barley meal was used to aid the healing of wounds.” This early spring flower is rather tall, having a single flowered stem, and blooming, “from February to May.”

A very unique species called ghost orchid was spied after having been thought esctinct for 23 years.  It was spotted in Wales in 2010 by amateur botanist Mark Jannick. This plant is incredibly pale and “flowers in the darkest parts of the woodland, where there is no other vegetation.” Instead of relying on photosynthesis, this plant relies on a fungus to manufacture its food. Author Peter Marren feels the flowers which look like “ghosts…almost like a photo negative.”