When the average person thinks about plants or animals that are going extinct, they usually have in mind exotic species in far off countries. However, over the past few decades it seems that British wildflowers are disappearing at an increasing rate: including some varieties that were once common in urban gardens, as well as along rural roadsides. In fact, since Queen Elizabeth became monarch, ten wildflowers have gone extinct: York groundsel, purple spurge, small bur parsley, narrow-leaved cudweed, stinking hawksbeard, downy hemp nettle, Lamb’s succory, Irish saxifrage, summer lady’s tresses and interrupted brome. The following five flowers are currently either endangered or critically endangered.
Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis)
This bright little flower is a smaller cousin of the common buttercup. They were once found throughout the east and south of England. There are still some populations scattered in the south-west Midlands, Devon, and Suffolk, but their presence has declined dramatically and rapidly over the past 60 years.
Red Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis anguistifolia)
Fertilizers, herbicides, new super-productive crop varieties have all diminished this delicate, pink-flowered nettle. It used to grow profusely in south Wales and southern England, but today can only be found in isolated patches.
Purple Milk-vetch (Astragalus danicus)
A low-growing purplish flower that resembles clover, but is actually closely related to the pea. The purple milk-vetch is classified as endangered, and it is also one of the species considered by ecologists to be especially important for preserving biodiversity.
Venus’s Looking Glass (Legousia hybrida)
Also known as clasping bellwort and roundleaved triodanis, this plant is often considered as a weed in agricultural areas. However, it is also cultivated as an ornamental, sporting pretty, blue-violet flowers along the stem a curving upward axis.
Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna)
This deep blue wildflower is the most minute of the gentian family, and is the County flower of County Durham. Though considered quite common throughout Central Europe, native growing spring gentians only grow in the Teesdale region in North England.