Last autumn we prepared a strip within the Cornfield Nature Reserve and sowed it with seed of threatened arable plants provided by the Ryedale-based Cornfield Flowers Project. We’re pleased to report that Shepherd’s Needle (Scandix pecten-veneris) has done exceptionally well with several dozen plants now in flower – we’ll make a more precise count in due course but at present a pair of Pheasants have just hatched young in the plot!
Shepherd’s Needle is listed as Endangered in England but was once a common weed of cornfields, including in the Vale of York. In his Flora of Yorkshire, published in 1840, Henry Baines simply described it as “frequent” in “gravelly cultivated fields”. In his Flora of the old West Riding (1888), F.A. Lees described it as “common” and in 1902 it was said to be “in all cornfields” in the East Riding. In recent years, naturally-occurring populations have been found in only three or four locations in Yorkshire. It is an annual plant belonging to the carrot family and owes its name to its long, needle-like seed pods.
We’re hoping that other threatened cornfield plants will make an appearance but we do need help maintaining the plot by weeding out invasive species like Field Horsetail – offers of help are always welcome!