A SIDDINGTON resident was shocked to discover that seeds sent from Kew Gardens as part of a wildflower growing campaign had bloomed into a poisonous plant.
Ann Savory was lucky enough to be sent seeds after entering a competition advertised on the BBC’s Countryfile, and planted them in her garden several months ago.
Just days after they flowered her husband told her they looked suspiciously similar to a flower he had seen in the Standard’s sister paper, the Swindon Advertiser.
The pair were shocked to find that it was indeed agrostemma githag, or corncockle.
Corncockles are poisonous if eaten and its seeds are especially dangerous, causing diarrhoea, vomiting and death in the most serious cases.
At first Ann was quite worried about the flowers but read that if she washed her hands and didn’t eat the plant she should be fine.
She said: “The dogs have been around them and they have been alright. I might just move them to the front, out of the way.”
Ann said that despite their poisonous nature it would be a shame to just destroy them and described them as quite pretty.
The seeds were sent as part of Kew Gardens’ Grow Wild campaign, which was featured in an episode of Countryfile several months ago.
Chief advisor to the Royal Horticultural Society Guy Barter said: “Corncockle, officially called Agrostemma githago, is a very rare wildflower, but contrary to recent reports has never actually become extinct in Britain, merely hanging on in a very few isolated pockets.”
“Cultivated seed of this plant has been widely sold as a ‘wildflower’ and consequently is not uncommon in gardens.”
Guy explained “The usual sensible garden precautions should be followed; refrain from eating any plant not known to be edible, wash hands after working in the garden and before eating or touching lips and eyes, and see that pets and children who cannot be entirely trusted not to consume vegetation are supervised.”
A spokeswoman for Kew Gardens said that their packets clearly indicated that the seeds should not be eaten and that there were no recorded incidents of people falling ill from touching the flower.
She said: “We understand that people are very worried about the potential dangers of corncockle but in fact, lots of our well-loved garden plants are poisonous including: daffodils, bluebells, crocuses, delphiniums, foxgloves, lupins and azaleas.”
Illness from consuming the seeds has been recorded across Europe in the past, but generally from when they are accidentally included in bread.