With many species of plant in Britain declining or under threat of extinction reintroduction may seem an attractive option, but it’s not simple. All sorts of issues must be addressed before reintroducing a plant to a site: do we know why the thing went extinct there and have things changed so that it won’t just die out again? And is it really extinct there or have we not looked hard enough? Is what we have in cultivation the same thing that went extinct?
Interrupted brome, Bromus interruptus, is a weedy grass of farmland, endemic to Britain (probably derived by mutation from soft brome, B. hordaceus). Although ‘weedy’, it is actually quite attractive, especially in seed. It’s a winter annual, germinating in the autumn and flowering the following summer. It is very much a Cambridgeshire plant, first recorded in in 1849 at Odsey on the county border with Hertfordshire, and last seen in the wild in 1972 at Pampisford.
We’ve been working with a farmer in Whittlesford and Dr Peter Stroh of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) to see if we can get a population established on a field margin. To this end we went out last autumn (2013), watched the margin being ploughed then scattered about 5,000 seeds of interrupted brome in its wake. We went back later and were delighted to see lots of seedlings – we’ll have to actually count them at some point but a rough guess would be a couple of thousand. Now we have to see whether they’ll grow and seed a new generation next autumn.