Man's free flowers turn out to be rare and deadly

Nigel Crooks with his flowers

Nigel Crooks with his flowers

First published in News by

A KEEN gardener from Wroughton has claimed that a pack of wild flower seeds he won through BBC’s Countryfile and proceeded to cultivate in his garden contained a deadly plant until now believed to be extinct.

When the nature programme offered members of the public the chance to receive plants from Kew Gardens native to their region as part of the Grow Wild campaign, Nigel Crooks jumped at the chance to add a new species to his flower beds .

In March he planted the seeds and purple flowers eventually bloomed this summer. On Friday, however, a flower identical to those growing at a steady pace in his garden was spotted in Sunderland and identified as the rare and highly poisonous corn-cockle.

After comparing photographs of the dangerous plant with his own seemingly innocuous wild flowers, he said there was no doubt he had been sent a highly toxic species.

“I was gobsmacked,” he said. “My partner was at work and she was on a coffee break reading the newspaper and she saw a photo of the flower they found in Sunderland. She rang me and said it looked like the ones we had in the garden.

“I googled the story and it turns out the plant is poisonous and it can cause various illnesses and even death.

“I was amazed that something supposed to be extinct for 200 years showed up in my garden. They found one flower in Sunderland – I have hundreds here.”

He added: “From the research I did, the seeds may have lain dormant. I just did it to get regional flowers but now they may be toxic.”

The corn-cockle, a pink or purple flower, originates from parts of Europe and is believed to have been brought into England by Iron Age farmers.

Part of the plant, which goes by the name agrostemma githago, is filled with glycoside githagin and agrostemnic acid that could lead to severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, weakness, slow breathing and, in extreme cases, even death.

Nigel immediately contacted Kew Gardens, the Royal Horticultural Society and Countryfile for advice and urged them to help him dispose of the plant safely.

“I have tweeted the RHS and Kew Gardens and called Countryfile asking them to have it positively identified and to dispose of it properly but I have had no response,” added the member of Wroughton Horticultural Society.

“I’m concerned. I haven’t let the dogs out in the garden and since I found out I’ve stayed away or used gloves.”

Following the discovery in Sunderland last week, Guy Barter, chief advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society, confirmed the flower was harmful.

“This is indeed a very rare flower and was once extinct in Britain,” he said. “The seed may have found its way into a wildflower mix and blown from a garden but they do lay dormant for years. They are poisonous and harmful – but as long as you wash your hands thoroughly you should be okay.”

A BBC spokesman said: “Earlier this year Countryfile worked with Kew on their Grow Wild campaign and the packs of seeds in the giveaway were provided and distributed by Kew.”

Comments (10)

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8:19am Tue 22 Jul 14

Still Claire says...

Crikey, looking at the photo, I too have about 50 of these plants in my back garden after sowing the seedds that I received in the post from the Country File programme. Better call Kew...
Crikey, looking at the photo, I too have about 50 of these plants in my back garden after sowing the seedds that I received in the post from the Country File programme. Better call Kew... Still Claire
  • Score: 0

10:34am Tue 22 Jul 14

PJC says...

Loads of plants are poisonous. Calm down...
Loads of plants are poisonous. Calm down... PJC
  • Score: 15

10:41am Tue 22 Jul 14

karenmichelle says...

This is scarey as I also planted some seeds from Kew Gardens and they have not comeout in flower yet, but I have a puppy who sniffs and chews plants and a few months ago he was sick. I will be taking some pics , contacting Kew Gardens and then digging the whole lot up as I cant risk my puppy being ill.
This is scarey as I also planted some seeds from Kew Gardens and they have not comeout in flower yet, but I have a puppy who sniffs and chews plants and a few months ago he was sick. I will be taking some pics , contacting Kew Gardens and then digging the whole lot up as I cant risk my puppy being ill. karenmichelle
  • Score: -11

11:59am Tue 22 Jul 14

loosewoman says...

What a fuss, a few years ago one of the public fields in our village was sown with a wild flower mix that included corn cockle and no-one has ever come to harm.
What a fuss, a few years ago one of the public fields in our village was sown with a wild flower mix that included corn cockle and no-one has ever come to harm. loosewoman
  • Score: 12

1:39pm Tue 22 Jul 14

karenmichelle says...

I really dont think worrying about a puppy eating this type of plant is making a fuss.
I really dont think worrying about a puppy eating this type of plant is making a fuss. karenmichelle
  • Score: -2

2:21pm Tue 22 Jul 14

ACrowley says...

Well thanks a lot Countryfile/Kew, all I wanted was a few nice wild flowers and I got was death in a packet. There's not a living creature left in my garden and even I'm typing this from beyond the grave. Murderers.
Well thanks a lot Countryfile/Kew, all I wanted was a few nice wild flowers and I got was death in a packet. There's not a living creature left in my garden and even I'm typing this from beyond the grave. Murderers. ACrowley
  • Score: 6

4:14pm Tue 22 Jul 14

mrwoo says...

Wish I had some of those seeds, could have made the ex wife a nice pie and saved a fortune! yum yum Mrs Woo.
Wish I had some of those seeds, could have made the ex wife a nice pie and saved a fortune! yum yum Mrs Woo. mrwoo
  • Score: 4

5:00pm Tue 22 Jul 14

Localboy86 says...

It's not the "thought to be extinct" variety, the seeds from kew came from a batch from a different country
It's not the "thought to be extinct" variety, the seeds from kew came from a batch from a different country Localboy86
  • Score: 0

9:20pm Tue 22 Jul 14

Daytona2 says...

It's was clear that corncockle was in the wild seed mix. Instead of taking personal responsibility for his mistake, he goes whinging to the press and of course they lap it up.
It's was clear that corncockle was in the wild seed mix. Instead of taking personal responsibility for his mistake, he goes whinging to the press and of course they lap it up. Daytona2
  • Score: 3

9:56pm Tue 22 Jul 14

Ollie Dognacky says...

Loads of things grown in gardens are poisonous. Foxgloves and Laburnum instantly spring to mind. Just don't eat any of it 😬
Loads of things grown in gardens are poisonous. Foxgloves and Laburnum instantly spring to mind. Just don't eat any of it 😬 Ollie Dognacky
  • Score: 8

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