Archaeophyte project report



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Archaeophyte project report

Bringing back two of the UK’s most threatened plants

The Species Recovery Trust
The Species Recovery Trust is an expert organisation devoted to preventing the loss of some of the UK's most endangered species. We combine the expertise of some of the country's foremost species conservation experts with an overall structure of efficiency and low running costs. Our core work focuses on species that typically occupy fewer than 20 sites in the UK and that we believe sit on the brink of extinction. Our work comprises a range of survey, research, habitat restoration and landowner liaison projects, as well as publicity work, teaching people general wildlife identification skills and raising awareness of species extinction issues.
This project is generously funded through Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, with additional work in Wales and Scotland funded by The Species Recovery Trust.

The Species Recovery Trust

37 Albany Road

Salisbury

SP1 3YQ

01722 322539



enquiries@speciesrecoverytrust.org.uk

www.speciesrecoverytrust.org.uk

Registered in England and Wales Charity 1146387




Contents 5

1Introduction 6

2Background 7

2.1Darnel 7

2.2Upright Goosefoot 10

3The 2014 project 12

3.1Sourcing seed for reintroduction 12



3.1.1Darnel 12

3.1.2Upright Goosefoot 12

3.2Selecting suitable reintroduction sites 12

3.3Establishing and managing self-sustaining populations 12

3.3.1Darnel 12

3.3.2Upright Goosefoot 15

3.4Five-year plan 15



4Further work 16

5References 17

6Acknowledgements 18

Appendix 1 – Summaries for Interpretation Boards 19

Darnel 19

Upright Goosefoot 19

Contents


Contents 5

1Introduction 6

2Background 7

2.1Darnel 7

2.2Upright Goosefoot 10

3The 2014 project 12

3.1Sourcing seed for reintroduction 12



3.1.1Darnel 12

3.1.2Upright Goosefoot 12

3.2Selecting suitable reintroduction sites 12

3.3Establishing and managing self-sustaining populations 12

3.3.1Darnel 12

3.3.2Upright Goosefoot 15

3.4Five-year plan 15



4Further work 16

5References 17

6Acknowledgements 18

Appendix 1 – Summaries for Interpretation Boards 19

Darnel 19

Upright Goosefoot 19



1Introduction

This project focuses on the conservation of two archaeophytes1, Darnel (Lolium temulentum) and Upright Goosefoot (Chenopodium urbicum), which are both historically associated with low-intensity farming and are facing extinction in the British Isles.


Darnel is classed as possibly Extinct in Great Britain, whilst Upright Goosefoot is Critically Endangered (Walker & Pearman, 2012).
Walker and Pearman (2012) identified an urgent need to protect Darnel and Upright Goosefoot from extinction by establishment of ‘safe-sites’. They also recommended that the Millennium Seedbank establish a seedbank for Darnel.
Both of these species were relatively abundant in ancient farming systems, with Darnel particularly associated with Roman sites and Upright Goosefoot, Iron Age sites. The recent emergence of working sites that recreate ancient farming practises provides an opportunity for these species to be introduced to a range of sites across the country, where they can be managed and displayed for the benefit of the public, alongside accounts of their fascinating ecology and history.
The objectives of the project were:

  • To source suitable Darnel and Upright Goosefoot seed in order to establish new populations of these species

  • To identify suitable reintroduction sites

  • To establish self-sustaining populations of Darnel and Upright Goosefoot at the chosen reintroduction sites

  • To develop a protocol for reintroduction that can be applied to similar species.



2Background

2.1Darnel



macintosh hd:users:ceririchards:dropbox:srt sharing (1) (1):projects:archaeophytes:images:darnel3 patrickmcgurn.jpg

Darnel. Photo by Patrick Mcgurn (European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism)


Darnel is an annual grass, which originated in the Mediterranean and spread widely across temperate areas, wherever wheat and cereals, of which it is a weed, were grown2. The first records from northern Europe are from Sweden, around 4000 years ago (Elias et al, 2010). The first UK literary reference to it is in The Boke of Husbandry (Fitzherbert, 1523) in which it was described as one of the worst weeds of arable land, ‘Ther be divers maner of wedes as thistyls . . . darnolde, gouldes.' 
It remained a common species in arable fields in Britain and in the mid-19th century it could still be an agronomic problem. Richard Mabey in Weeds (2010) writes that ‘The primeval wheatfields would have been thick with poppies, black mustard, wild gladioli and tares – not the pea family tares of modern Western floras (Vicia species), but the toxic grass darnel, which was to haunt European farmers until the late Middle Ages. There was no field-weeding at this stage. The crop and the weeds were crudely separated by hand after harvest.’
The abundance and familiarity of Darnel is reflected in its numerous literary references. Darnel is believed to be the ‘tares’ referred to in The Bible. In the parable of the Good Seed in Matthew’s Gospel, a householder advises his workers not to pull up the weeds: ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles and burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’ It appears that it was not unusual for Darnel seed to be deliberately and maliciously sown amongst an enemy’s crops and the plant was widely associated with the devil.
Shakespeare refers to Darnel in King Henry VI:
‘Joan La Pucelle: Good morrow, gallants! want ye corn for bread?

I think the Duke of Burgundy will fast

Before he'll buy again at such a rate:

'Twas full of darnel; do you like the taste?


Burgundy: Scoff on, vile fiend and shameless courtezan!

I trust ere long to choke thee with thine own

And make thee curse the harvest of that corn.’3

Darnel is also mentioned in Horace, Sermones 2.6: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, ‘After the master of the house himself, having stretched out on (a bed of) this year’s chaff, was eating spelt and darnel, leaving behind the better parts of the banquet.’


Virgil writes of 'unlucky darnel' (Eclog 5. 36-37) and groups it with thistles, thorns, and burs, among the enemies of the husbandman.
Pliny wrote in 77 AD ‘in Asia and Greece when the managers of baths want to get rid of a crowd, they throw Darnel seeds on hot coals’.
Historically, it has also been known as Poison Ryegrass, Cheat, Tare, Bearded Darnel, Darnel-cockle and Cockle, with some of these names reflecting the poisonous effects of its seeds on humans and other animals. Flour or bread contaminated with ground Darnel seed caused poisoning, with consumption of 1-2lb of fresh seed estimated to constitute a serious or fatal dose (Gill & Vear, 1966). The plant’s species name ‘temulentum’, meaning ‘drunken,’ suggests not only the habit of the heavy seed heads, which loll over under their own weight4, but also the symptoms of drunkenness (including trembling, inability to walk, ringing in the ears, nausea, impaired vision, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea) the seed produces if consumed, as noted by Gerard (1597) ‘The new bread wherein Darnel is eaten hot causeth drunkenness’.
Darnel seed contains the alkaloids loline, 6-methyl loline and lolinine and these, along with the presence of Ergot fungus, have been blamed for its toxic effects. However, recent studies reveal a complex picture in which endophytic fungi, nematodes and pathogenic bacteria, separately, or in combination, account for the toxicity of the Darnel grain.
Despite its toxic reputation, the seeds of Darnel were sometimes used to flavour beer. The Moroccans used a decoction of Darnel as a remedy for haemorrhages and urinary incontinence. Powdered seeds were also eaten to suppress symptoms of the menopause and used externally as poultices for a range of skin conditions. Culpepper writes that ‘Darnel meal applied in a poultice draweth forth splinters and broken bones in the flesh’.
In 1951, an archaeological record of Upright Goosefoot was made near Lisburn, Antrim, Northern Ireland, dating from the 9th-10th Century. Darnel seeds from the Romano British period were also recorded in Upton St Leonards, near Gloucester, Gloucestershire in 19715. Darnel would likely have been a common sight in the Roman agricultural landscape in Britain6, particularly amongst crops of Spelt, which could be sown twice a year. Oats and Barley were also grown. Newly introduced crops included Cabbage, Carrots and Parsnips. Most farms in Roman Britain were mixed subsistence farms, with fields divided up by earth banks or dry-stone walls.
By the beginning of the 20th century the species had become very rare throughout Europe, and by the middle of the century it was virtually extinct (Salisbury, 1963). In a review of the status of endangered archaeophytes in 29 European countries (Storkey et al., 2012) it is considered officially extinct in nine, is on the national red lists of seven more and considered endangered in a further seven. Darnel has been recently recorded on Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Western Ireland (Patrick Mcgurn, AranLife Project, pers. comm.), as a contaminant of Rye (Secale cereale), grown to produce thatching for houses and barns. It exists on the Aran Islands as a result of the traditional method of saving seed from the ‘contaminated’ crop. In England, a small population (c. 12 plants) was discovered in 2009 in an arable margin in Hertfordshire, north of Burnham Green (c.TL264170). It was last seen in 2010 and was not recorded in 2011. Elsewhere, it is now a very rare casual of waste places originating from grain, bird-seed and wool shoddy.

Darnel growing amongst Rye on Aran Islands. Photo by Patrick Mcgurn (European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism)


Rye crop on Aran Islands. Photo by Patrick Mcgurn (European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism)


Darnel’s decline has been linked to improvements in seed-cleaning technology, coinciding with the development of more efficient sieving mechanisms in threshing machines, which were able to remove unwanted weed seeds from the cereal crop and therefore prevent the return of unwanted seed to fields along with those sown.
The species has poor seed dormancy, which makes it very vulnerable to adverse changes in arable management (Wilson, 1990). Removal of seed from the sown grain and improvements in weed control, particularly with herbicides, is likely to have been the principal reason for the decline of Darnel in Britain.

2.2Upright Goosefoot



Upright Goosefoot


Upright Goosefoot is a poorly known species. However, several other Goosefoot species, which share a number of common features, are very well known, including Fat Hen (Chenopodium album) and Red Goosefoot (Chenopodium rubra). These species are annuals and are most frequently found on arable land, although several are also frequent in horticultural situations and on other areas of disturbance. While seedlings can germinate at any time of the year given sufficient soil moisture, in the UK the majority of seedlings germinate in spring between March and May. Goosefoots are therefore characteristic of spring-sown crops, and can become abundant in root crops and horticultural crops where the canopy is low. Goosefoot seeds are typically long-lived in the soil and can accumulate as a large seed-bank. Several closely related species, such as Good King Henry, are edible and have medicinal uses.
Upright Goosefoot is considered to be an Iron Age arrival7 and has had a history of erratic and casual occurrences, but has never been considered common or a noteworthy agronomic problem. It is considered Until about 1940 it occurred frequently as a casual, mainly as a seed impurity, but since 1970 it has only occurred as a rare casual and was last recorded in Langdon Hills in Essex in 2011 (TQ6787; Rod Cole, pers. comm.), adjacent to a medieval farmstead (now part of a country park), but the site has become overgrown with scrub and it has not been seen there for over two decades. It is assumed that viable seeds probably lie dormant there. There are relatively few definite recent records for this species and most records appear to be of casual plants in ruderal habitats such as rubbish tips, wasteground, gardens or vegetable patches. There have been few stable localities, although it was known from one Dorset farm for more than 50 years in the 20th century (Bowen, 2000).
In Iron-age Britain8, most of the population would have been involved in mixed, subsistence farming, with many farmsteads being delimited by a circular bank and ditch enclosure surrounded by a linear ditch system that formed rectangular fields limited in size to that which a man could plough in one day. The fields were probably used in a rotation system, with one being left fallow and grazed each year. Emmer wheat, Barley and Rye were grown, with Spelt being introduced on a large scale. On the Hampshire chalkland a detailed study of crop remains from a number of sites has suggested that in the Early Iron Age Spelt and Six-row Barley were probably sown together in the autumn as one crop, but by the Middle Iron Age spring-sown Barley crops were additionally introduced, extending the harvest. In the Late Iron Age, additional crops including Oats and Celtic Beans were introduced (Campbell, 2000, in Cunliffe, 2005). Harvested crops were stored in either raised granaries or bell-shaped pits. The introduction of the iron-tipped plough share made cultivation of heavy clay soils possible.
In a review of the status of endangered archaeophytes in 29 European countries (Storkey et al., 2012) it is considered officially extinct in three, is on the national red lists of four more and considered endangered in one other.

3The 2014 project




3.1Sourcing seed for reintroduction

3.1.1Darnel

Karen Malloy provided 25 Darnel seeds, collected from Inis Meáin by Patrick Mcgurn. Five of these were used for genetic screening and the rest were donated to the Millennium Seedbank (MSB).


The seed company Herbiseed held stock of Darnel seed from Ireland but were concerned that they were contaminated by commercial stock. With the provision of the seed from Aran they were able to cross-reference their stock, looking at key protein groups and their level of variance with commercial and other Lolium strains. They discovered there was no difference between their stock and the wild seeds, so this material was considered suitable for this project. In addition, The Species Recovery Trust has obtained seeds from earlier Herbiseed stock which were planted in our own beds.
Under experimental dry storage, Darnel seed was still viable after 100 years (Steiner & Ruckenbauer, 1995) and in germination experiments to assess the viability of seed collected from the Aran Islands, 75% of Darnel seeds germinated within a week. This relatively low percentage of germination would likely be overcome in the field by the production of a large amount of seed (Bleasdale, 1994).

3.1.2Upright Goosefoot

Upright Goosefoot seeds, collected and harvested by Rodney Cole from Langdon Hills, Essex in 2010 were made available by the MSB and Kevin Walker of BSBI.



3.2Selecting suitable reintroduction sites

Existing knowledge and an Internet search produced a list of potential Roman and Iron Age reconstruction sites. The most suitable of these were approached to establish their interest in the project. More will be approached in 2015 as the project develops.


3.3Establishing and managing self-sustaining populations




3.3.1Darnel

In 2014 one crop of Darnel was planted at Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire. This appeared to have germinated successfully in December 2014.


No other sites were approached during 2014 as ongoing analysis of the seed meant that no stock was available until the end of October, fractionally late for autumn establishment.
In 2015, in line with current recommendations, freshly harvested Darnel seed will be used to establish populations wherever possible. It will be sown between the end of September and the beginning of November, the typical period of seed drilling in pre-mechanised agriculture. The work at Butser informed us that the optimum sowing density appeared to be 500g to cover 3x10m, i.e. roughly 15g per metre square. The success of this density will be monitored in the spring and methodology updated accordingly.
Darnel will be grown in a single-species plot in addition to including it in a mixed plot. Seed will be harvested from this monoculture each year in order to guarantee a seed source. The crop will be harvested and then left to dry, either on the ground in situ or indoors. After a week or so the heads will be bashed to release the seed, or alternatively shaken back over the site, at which point the ground will again be raked and scarified to bury the seed.


macintosh hd:users:dom:dropbox:srt sharing:projects:archaeophytes:images:butser:2014-10-23 09.47.59.jpg

macintosh hd:users:dom:dropbox:srt sharing:projects:archaeophytes:images:butser:2014-10-23 09.53.22.jpg

Darnel trial site at Butser Ancient Farm

Raking seeds in







macintosh hd:users:dom:dropbox:srt sharing:projects:archaeophytes:images:butser:2014-10-23 10.13.15.jpg

macintosh hd:users:dom:dropbox:srt sharing:projects:archaeophytes:images:butser:planting:first growth.jpg

Density of seed

Darnel germinating at trial site in December 2014

3.3.2Upright Goosefoot

It is likely that Upright Goosefoot will be able to accumulate a seed-bank relatively rapidly under cultivated conditions. It will be maintained in single-species plots, as well as in mixed plots with a crop.


Seed will be sown in plots in the spring between the middle of March and the beginning of May 2015. Initially a range of sowing dates will be tried.


3.4Five-year plan







ACTIVITY

COMPLETED

2014

Source Darnel seed



 

Source Goosefoot seed



 

Establish one field site for Darnel



 

Establish one field site for Goosefoot




 

Write background report



 

Write management plan



 

Establish two ex-situ sites at Kew and Species Recovery Trust

 

 

 

 

2015

Ensure accession of both species into Millennium Seedbank

 

 

Establish a further 2 sites for Darnel

 

 

Establish a further 2 sites for Goosefoot

 

 

Carry out spring monitoring of 2014 Darnel site

 

 

Carry our Summer Monitoring of 2014 Goosefoot

 

 

Install interpretation at site requiring it

 

 

Carry out publicity for project

 

 

 

 

2016

Monitor all sites in spring and Summer

 

 

Research availability of further sites and contact them, including semi-wild sites

 

 

 

 

2017

Review plan

 

 

Establish populations at additional sites if available

 

 

Monitor all sites in Spring and Summer

 




Establish protocol for future introductions




 

Re-write management and ecology report based on monitoring results

 

 

Bring total of sites up to 6 sites per species.

 

 

 

 

2018

Monitor sites and enquire long-term management is in place

 

 

Review interpretation at site and augment if necessary

 

 

Expand project to cover other near extinct species of similar ecology and habitat

 



4Further work

The Species Recovery Trust would like to use the skills and methodologies developed during this project to carry out similar reintroduction work for Downy Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis segetum), Thorow-wax (Bupleurum rotundifolium) and Lamb’s Succory (Arnoseris minima). None of these have been seen in UK since the early 1970s and Thorow-wax is classed as Critically Endangered due to dramatic declines during the last century.



5References




  • Bleasdale A (1994) The Arable Weed Flora of the Rye Crop on the Aran Islands, Co. Galway. A Report Submitted to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Office of Public Works (December 1994)

  • Bowen H (2000) The Flora of Dorset. The Nature Bureau, Newbury.

  • Cunliffe B (2005) Iron Age Communities in Britain 4th ed. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Glasgow

  • Eliáš P, Eliáš P and Baranec T (2005) The new red list of Slovak endangered weeds, pp. 23–28. Nitra, Slovakia: Slovak University of Agriculture.

  • Fitzherbert A (1523/34), Boke of Husbandry

  • Gerard (1597) Great Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes

  • Gill N T & Vear K C (1966) Agricultural Botany, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd

  • Mabey R (2010) Weeds, Profile Books

  • Pearman D & Walker K J (2012) The Distribution and Status of Critically Endangered Archaeophytes in England, BSBI & Natural England

  • Salisbury E (1963) Weeds and Aliens. Collins New Naturalist Series

  • Steiner A M and Ruckenbauer P (1995) Germination of 110-year old cereal and weed seeds, the Vienna sample of 1877. Verification of effective ultra-dry storage at ambient temperature. Seed Science Research, 5. 195-199.

  • Storkey J, Meyer S, Still K S and Leuschner C (2012) The impact of agricultural intensification and land-use change on the European arable flora. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 1421-1429.

  • Wilson P J (1990) The Ecology and Conservation of the British Arable Weed Flora. PhD Thesis, University of Southampton


6Acknowledgements


The Species Recovery Trust would like to thank Patrick Mcgurn (European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism) and Karen Molloy for their help in sourcing Darnel seed from Ireland. Patrick also kindly provided photographs of Rye and Darnel growing on the Aran Islands.

Additionally, we would like to thank Kevin Walker (BSBI) for providing Upright Goosefoot seed, collected by Rod Cole.



We are also hugely grateful to all the sites to date that have offered to provide trial sites for the project.

Appendix 1 – Summaries for Interpretation Boards




Darnel


The fascinating plant Darnel would have been common in Roman crop fields, particularly those of Spelt. Originating in the Mediterranean, it spread wherever small-grain cereals were grown and was a serious weed until the mid-19th Century, with its decline coinciding with the development of more efficient sieving mechanisms in threshing machines which were able to remove unwanted weed seeds from the cereal crop.
The seeds of Darnel have poisonous effects on humans and other animals, with endophytic fungi, nematodes and pathogenic bacteria, separately or in combination, accounting for the toxicity. The plant’s species name ‘temulentum’, meaning ‘drunken,’ reflects not only the habit of the heavy seed heads, which loll over under their own weight9, but also the symptoms of drunkenness the seed produces if consumed, including ringing in the ears, inability to walk, nausea, impaired vision, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Historically, it has also been known as Poison Ryegrass, Cheat, Tare and Cockle. Despite its toxicity, Darnel has been used to flavour beer and medicinally.
Darnel is believed to be the ‘tares’ referred to in the bible. In the parable of the Good Seed in Matthew’s Gospel, a householder advises his workers not to pull up the weeds: ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles and burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’
The Species Recovery Trust, Natural England and xxxx are working together to return Darnel to the English landscape.

Upright Goosefoot


Now considered to be facing extinction in the UK and last recorded from Langdon Hills in Essex, Upright Goosefoot would have been a feature of farms during Iron Age Britain. Like other closely related species, Upright Goosefoot would have been a weed of spring-sown crops, especially root crops. Little is known about this mysterious plant, but it may have had some value as an edible or herbal plant, like the closely related Good King Henry.
In Iron-age Britain10, most of the population would have been involved in mixed, subsistence farming, with many farmsteads being delimited by a circular bank and ditch enclosure surrounded by a linear ditch system that formed rectangular fields limited in size to that which a man could plough in one day. The fields were probably used in a rotation system, with one being left fallow and grazed each year. Emmer wheat, Barley and Rye were grown, with Spelt being introduced on a large scale. On the Hampshire chalkland a detailed study of crop remains from a number of sites has suggested that in the Early Iron Age Spelt and Six-row Barley were probably sown together in the autumn as one crop, but by the Middle Iron Age spring-sown Barley crops were additionally introduced, extending the harvest. In the Late Iron Age, additional crops including Oats and Celtic Beans were introduced (Campbell, 2000, in Cunliffe, 2005). Harvested crops were stored in either raised granaries or bell-shaped pits. The introduction of the iron-tipped ploughshare made cultivation of heavy clay soils possible.
The Species Recovery Trust, Natural England and xxxx are working together to return Upright Goosefoot to the English landscape.


1 Non-native plants brought to Britain before 1500 AD

2 http://www.cabi.org/isc.datasheet/31169

3 http://www.rhymezone.com/r/gwic.cgi?Word=_&Path=shakespeare/histories/1kinghenryvi

4 http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/lolium_temulentum.htm

5 http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue1/tomlinson/scripts/abcd.cfm?taxa=Lolium%20temulentum&action=rec&date=all&long=on

6 43 AD to 409 AD

7 http://wlgf.org/linked/gardens_in_prehistory.pdf

8 c.750 BC to AD 43

9 http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/lolium_temulentum.htm

10 c.750 BC to AD 43


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