Broad-leaved cudweed is a somewhat taller and more substantial plant than its close relative, red-tipped cudweed. It, too, is a greyish-green, hairy plant whose leaves are broader and almost spoon-shaped. The flower heads form a pyramidal shape.
This plant is an annual and flowers between July and September. The seeds germinate from October to December, with a smaller spring flush following. It is not a competitive plant and cannot tolerate other tall vegetation.
Found across Europe and into central Asia and North Africa. In the UK, it is confined almost entirely to the southeast of England, with records from Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Cambridgeshire and sites in Oxfordshire. There may be only nine sites in Britain.
The broad-leaved cudweed prefers arable land which is disturbed regularly, mainly on chalky or calcareous soils. It is a plant of marginal farmland which cannot support more vigorous species. There are also large populations in abandoned chalk quarries.
Changes in agricultural practices including greater use of herbicides, the loss of traditional crop rotations, destruction of field margins and highly productive crop planting, have probably been the most damaging to populations of the broad-leaved cudweed. There is also the problem of neglect and recreational pressures on disused chalk pits.
This species is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UKBAPs), and has been included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). Along with its relative, red-tipped cudweed, and other endangered plants of arable land, the broad-leaved cudweed is part of a plan to encourage farmers and landowners to adopt some of the agri-environment schemes now available.
As relatively little is known about this species' ability to survive as dormant seed in the ground, the main task is to influence the management of those sites where it still occurs, or has been recorded in the recent past. Re-introducing the plant has not been ruled out as a future possibility, but more work will have to be done on finding out how long the seeds can survive before germination.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
These schemes allow the government to compensate farmers for using methods that benefit the environment. The two main initiatives in the UK are the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Since October 2000 these have formed part of the England Rural Development Programme (EDRP), administered by DEFRA, the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. See <link>http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/erdphome.htm</link> for more on these initiatives.
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