The “Extinct” Grass in Britain
A. The British grass interrupted brome was said to be extinct, just like the Dodo. Called interrupted brome because of its gappy seed-head, this unprepossessing grass was found nowhere else in the world, Gardening experts from the Victorian lira were first to record it. In the early 20th century, it grew far and wide across southern England. But it quickly vanished and by 1972 was nowhere to be found. Even the seeds stored at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden as an insurance policy were dead, having been mistakenly kept at room temperature. Fans of the glass were devastated.
B. However, reports of its decline were not entirely correct. Interrupted brome has enjoyed a revival, one that's not due to science. Because of the work of one gardening enthusiast, interrupted brome is thriving as a pot plant. The relaunching into the wild of Britain's almost extinct plant has excited conservationists everywhere
C. Originally, Philip Smith didn’t know that he had the very unusual grass at his own home. When he heard about the grass becoming extinct, he wanted to do something surprising. He attended a meeting of the British Botanical Society in Manchester in 1979, and seized His opportunity. He said that it was so disappointing to hear about the demise of the interrupted brome. "What a pity we didn’t research it further!” he added. Then. all of a sudden he displayed his pots with so called "extinct grass" lot all to see.
D. Smith had kept the seeds from the last stronghold of the grass, Pamisford in 1963. It was then when the grass stalled to disappear from the wild. Smith cultivated the grass, year after year. Ultimately, it was his curiosity in the plant that saved it. not scientific or technological projects that
E. For now, the brome's future is guaranteed. The seeds front Smith's plants have beet, securely stored in the cutting edge facilities of Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place in Sussex. And living plants thrive at the botanic gardens at Kew, Edinburgh and Cambridge. This year, seeds are also saved at sites all across the country and the grass now nourishes at several public gardens too.
F. The grass will now be reintroduced to the British countryside. As a part of the Species Recovery Project, the organisation English Nature will re-introduce interrupted brome into the agricultural landscape, provided willing farmers are found. Alas, the grass is neither beautiful not practical. it is undoubtedly a weed, a weed that nobody cares for these days. The brome wax probably never widespread enough to annoy farmers and today, no one would appreciate its productivity or nutritious qualities. As a grass, it leaves a lot to be desited by agriculturalists.
G. Smith’s research has attempted to answer the question of where the grass came from. His research points to mutations from other weedy grasses as the most likely source. So close is the relationship that interrupted brome was originally deemed to be a mere variety of soil brome by the great Victorian taxonomist Professor Hackel. A botanist from the 19th century, Druce had taken notes on the grass and convinced his peers that the grass deserved its own status as a species. Despite Druce growing up in poverty and his self-taught profession, he became the leading botanist of his time.
H. Where the grass came from may be clear, but the timing of its birth may be tougher to find out. A clue lies in its penchant for growing as a weed in fields shared with a fodder crop, in particular nitrogen-fixing legumes such as sainfoin, lucerne or clover. According to agricultural historian Joan Thirsk, the humble sainfoin and its company were first noticed in Britain in the early 17th century. Seeds brought in from the Continent were sown in pastures to feed horses and other livestock. However, back then, only a few enthusiastic gentlemen were willing to use the new crops for their prized horses.
I. Not before too long though, the need to feed the parliamentary armies in Scotland, England and behind was more pressing than ever. farmers were forced to produce more bread, cheese and beer. And by 1650 the legumes were increasingly introduced into arable rotations, to serve as green nature to boost grain yields. A bestseller of its day, Nathaniel Fiennes's Sainfoin Improved, published in 1671, helped to spread the word. With the advent of sainfoin, clover and lucerne. Britain's very own rogue grass had suddenly at rivet.
J. Although the credit for the discovery of interrupted brome goes to a Miss A. M. Barnard, who collected the first specimens at Odsey, Bedfordshire, in 1849, the grass had probably lurked undetected in the English countryside for at least a hundred years. Smith thinks the plant- the world’s version of the Dodo probably evolved in the late 17th or early 18th century, once sainfoin became established. Due mainly to the development of the motor car and subsequent decline of fodder crops for horses, the brome declined rapidly over the 20th century. Today, sainfoin has almost disappeared from the countryside, though occasionally its colourful flowers are spotted in lowland nature reserves. More recently artificial fertilizers have made legume rotations unnecessary
K. The close relationship with out-of-fashion crops spells trouble for those seeking to reestablish interrupted brome in today’s countryside. Much like the once common arable weeds, such as the corncockle, its seeds cannot survive long in the soil. Each spring, the brome relied on farmers to resow its seeds; in the days before weed killers and advanced seed sieves, an ample supply would have contaminated supplies of crop seed. However fragile seeds are not the brome’s only problem: this species is also unwilling to release its seeds as they ripen. According to Smith. The grass will struggle to survive even in optimal conditions. It would be very difficult to thrive amongst its more resilient competitors found in today’s improved agricultural landscape
L. Nonetheless, interrupted brome’s reluctance to thrive independently may have some benefits. Any farmer willing to foster this unique contribution to the world's flora can rest assured that the grass will never become an invasive pest. Restoring interrupted brome to its rightful home could bring other benefits too, particularly if this strange species is granted recognition as a national treasure. Thanks to British farmers, interrupted brome was given the chance to evolve in the first place. Conservationists would like to see the grass grow once again in its natural habitat and perhaps, one day, seeing the grass become a badge of honour for a new generation of environmentally conscious farmers.