29 March 2002

Pick a plant for your county

A WILDFLOWER emblem for every county is the aim of a project launched by Plantlife, the conservation charity.

One suggested flower for Yorks, for instance, is the rare ladys slipper orchid, once common in the limestone areas of the county and recently rescued from extinction. There are 12 possibilities for Derbys, from sheeps fescue to the bluebell. The field poppy (right) has been mooted for Suffolk and the meadow cranes-bill for Wilts.

The purpose of the scheme, called County Flowers, is to raise awareness of wild plants and encourage people to get out into the countryside again after the devastation of foot-and-mouth. It echoes the initiative taken in America last century when every state chose a representative flower. Now Texas has the bluebonnet and California the poppy.

Plantlife has suggested appropriate wildflowers indigenous to each county but the intention is to get people to vote for their favourites. Then early next year final selections can be made based on popular choices.

You can cast a vote for your own county or any others you like to visit. The flowers put forward should grow wild rather than in gardens and allotments and could be specifically valued by a village or town or express the character of an area. Many places are named after plants. Bromley after broom, for example, and Ramsey after ramsons, better known as wild garlic. Plantlifes Nick Weiss says: "It is a great way to appreciate the importance and beauty of our wild plants. Sadly, we have lost so many over the last 50 years."

The charity has applied for wild flowers to be included on stamps in 2004 and is exploring other promotion methods. In the US they are found decorating car number plates.

Votes for County Flowers can be cast on the internet by visiting www.plantlife.org.uk until Dec 1, 2002, or by contacting Plantlife, 21 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9RP.

Tom Montgomery