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Crown daisies in Norfolk

Crown daisy, Stalham, May 2007

This is the story of how a Mediterranean wild flower grew on RSPB property in the Norfolk Broads for three years.

My first discovery, in 2007, was of least 12 crown daisy plants growing in a large greenhouse near Stalham. This was part of an organic enterprise on five fields that was itself part of the RSPB’s purchase of Sutton Fen nature reserve, completed in December 2006.

RSPB land agent David Horsfall had organised a work party of RSPB regional office and reserves staff, and I was one of those who volunteered to help tidy up the greenhouse one evening in May 2007.

It’s highly likely that the crown daises came in with ‘contaminated’ organic seed, with the hot and dry conditions in the greenhouse and lack of sprays or weeding making ideal growing conditions. There were some old seed packets, and seed supplier Tamar Organics kindly confirmed that its seed is sourced from Italy and Israel, where you'd expect crown daises.

Plant recorder Bob Ellis kindly checked the county’s records and found that crown daisy was previously only recorded in Norfolk in 1912.

Most of the 12 plants in 2007 had the yellow and cream coloured flowers of the discolor variety of crown daisy; one was all yellow and the rest were not in flower. This is a fairly typical proportion in southern Europe, where the two-coloured form is the most usual, and this continued to be the mix for the next two years. 

Crown daisy var. coronarium

Crown daisy var. coronarium

crown daisy var. discolor

Crown daisy var. discolor

Some plants came home and flowered all summer in a pot in my front garden. There a few popped up again in 2008, as did many in the now more dilapidated greenhouse at Stalham. For safety reasons this was demolished in early 2009, and many crown daises grew well in the disturbed open ground that summer. A visit in August seemed to coincide with their peak, with 100 or more plants. At home, they were waning: just one appeared in my garden in 2009.
Crown daisies in the field, 12 August 2009

The area where the crown daisies grew at Stalham is now in arable cultivation, so that combined with the long cold winter means the odds of this Mediterranean flower appearing for a fourth year are not good.

The appearance of crown daisies in Norfolk is not linked to climate change; and for a common Mediterranean plant to grow for three years in East Anglia is of no great note in conservation terms. But it’s a natural history curiosity, now recorded here for posterity, and in the words of Flanders and Swann, “Let’s hope posterity is grateful!”

Chris Durdin, March 2010

Back to nature notes

Many Honeyguiders know crown daisy Chrysanthemum coronarium (also called Xanthophthalmum coronarium) as it's an abundant field and wayside flower in the Mediterranean region. For example, see this picture here in our Crete gallery (and another here).

crown daisies in the greenhouse

Crown daisies in the greenhouse at Stalham, May 2007, above and below.

crown daisies var discolor

On the left: crown daisy var. coronarium and crown daisy var. discolor (both 12 August 2009). The year 2009 was notable for the invasion of 7-spot ladybirds as well as painted ladies.

crown daisy with hoverfly

Crown daisy with hoverflies, above and below (both 12 August 2009). Above is a wasp mimic, not identifiable by species, below a marmalade fly Episyrphus balteatus (Hoverfly ID by Russell Leavett).

In the open air the flowers were attracting lots of insects. These pictures also show how the pale outer part of the rays are quite variable in colour.

crown daisy with hoverfly

More on RSPB Sutton Fen here. Please note that this nature reserve is "not capable of accommodating visitors" and where the crown daises grew is not open to visitors expect by special arrangement.

Photos on this web page by Chris Durdin, all taken at Stalham.

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