Sudbury author launches campaign to save critically endangered Suffolk flower
- Credit: STEVE AYLWARD
A popular Suffolk author has launched a campaign to save a precious county flower.
The Suffolk Oxlip, a delicate yellow flower found in wet woods on boulder clay, is now on the Red Data List for plants – meaning it is on the verge of extinction.
Charlie Haylock, from near Sudbury, was so concerned to hear the plant was endangered that he launched a campaign to preseve the county flower so it could be enjoyed for generations to come.
He said: “I just feel that with the Oxlip being the county flower of Suffolk, on the verge of extinction, we should do something to try and solve it. It would be disastrous if we lost our county flower.
“I remember as a boy going through the woods with my grandfather and seeing a yellow carpet of Oxlips. I would like to see a comeback.”
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Steve Aylward, head of property and projects at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said that the flower’s numbers had diminished after alien species were introduced to the Suffolk countryside – disturbing the delicate ecosystem at work.
The plant’s demise has been largely down to damage caused by deer and pheasants who graze on the flowers.
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Mr Aylward said: “The main threats are deer and pheasants because they browse the flowers.
“Pheasants are released in vast numbers for shooting. There is a significant ecological impact of releasing hundreds of thousands of pheasants into the countryside.
“Deer numbers are at a historic high because they have no natural predators. Deer are natural grazers – they browse on all sorts of things.”
Mr Aylward said the opportunity to preserve the flowers lay with landowners and farmers.
He added: “It is going to be [down to] the landowners who own the woodland to do what they can to protect these populations of Oxlip through good woodland management, and managing deer numbers and not releasing pheasants.”
The Oxlip was made Suffolk’s county flower in 2002, following a public vote led by the charity Plantlife.
“They invited people to vote for their county flower – Suffolk chose the Oxlip,” Mr Aylward said. “You couldn’t choose a better flower. It is one of our most distinctive flowers – it is quite different from primroses and cowslips.
“We have a duty of care to look after our Oxlip because we have got one of the most important populations in the country.”
Suffolk also has a historic connection to the Oxlip – with a fondness for the plant dating back long before it was named the county flower.
“The botanist Francis Simpson talked about woods being overflowing with Oxlips in the 1950s and 1960s,” Mr Aylward said. “The wood floor would be covered in Oxlips.”
Mr Haylock aims to raise awareness with his campaign, in the hope something can be done to save the precious flowers.