Small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum)

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Small cow-wheat in flower
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Small cow-wheat fact file

Small cow-wheat description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderScrophulariales
FamilyScrophulariaceae
GenusMelampyrum (1)

Small cow-wheat has narrow leaves and produces deep brownish yellow flowers (4).

Size
Height: up to 35 cm (2)
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Small cow-wheat biology

Small cow-wheat is a hemiparasitic plant, this means that it can obtain nutrients from other plants, but can also live independently due to the presence of a root system and the green pigment chlorophyll. It is an annual species, and flowers from June to August (4).

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Small cow-wheat range

A locally occurring species in northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, with historic records from Wales. It has become extinct in 70% of the former UK range (3). This species is endemic to Europe, with strongholds in Scandinavia, the Alps and the Balkans (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Small cow-wheat habitat

Inhabits relatively open (4), usually broadleaved birch woodlands (2), and occurs on banks, ledges, stream valleys, hollows, and the shores of lakes (3).

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Small cow-wheat status

Classified as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain (3), and protected in Northern Ireland by Schedule 8 of the Wildlife Order, 1985 but is not protected elsewhere in the UK (3).

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Small cow-wheat threats

Current threats to the species include agricultural intensification, with fertiliser application at woodland edges, over grazing in woodlands or the abandonment of grazing, and the planting of non-native tree species (4).

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Small cow-wheat conservation

Small cow-wheat is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, the Species Action Plan aims to halt the decline before the year 2005 and return the species to five sites from which it has been lost by 2010 (3). It occurs in three Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), which are managed as reserves (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Authentication

Information authenticated by the Forestry Commission:
http://www.forestry.gov.uk

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Glossary

Annual
Lives or grows for just one year.
Chlorophyll
A group of green pigments found in photosynthetic organisms (photosynthesis is a metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is reduced, using energy absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product).
Hemi-parasitic
Plant that obtains some nutrition from a host plant, but is able to survive independently as it possesses the pigment chlorophyll and a root system.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary ( 2002) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Paul Gallagher, (2002) Forestry Commission. Pers. comm.
  3. UK BAP Species Action Plan (March 2002): www.ukbap.org.uk
  4. Press, B. & Gibbons, B. (1993) Photographic field guide: Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe. New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., London.
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Image credit

Small cow-wheat in flower  
Small cow-wheat in flower

© Bob Gibbons / Natural Image

Natural Image
24 Newborough Rd
Wimborne
Dorset
BH21 1RD
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 675 916
Fax: +44 (0) 1202 848 419
bobgibbons@btinternet.com

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