Oxfordshire county flower 'obliterated' by severe weather

Rain, flooding and high winds have "obliterated" Oxfordshire's county flower, a wildlife trust have said.

Just over 6,000 snake's head fritillaries were counted by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) this year.

That is down from 43,000 last year - and the lowest figure since 1993.

The count is held annually at Iffley Meadows nature reserve on the River Thames in Oxford.

The trust said the flower had been "decimated" by wild weather conditions and browsing by deer.

BBOWT senior ecologist Colin Williams, who was in charge of the count, said: "The low numbers are disappointing, but not unexpected."

He said "prolonged and extensive flooding" of the site, along with recent heavy rainfall meant many of the plants were "really struggling".

"It was simply a dreadful year for snake's head fritillaries at Iffley," he added.

The site is a floodplain meadow and one of fewer than 30 places in the country where the flowers bloom in the wild.

Floodplain meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK and are vitally important for wildlife and climate change mitigation - with BBOWT managing 10% of the remaining ones left in the UK.

The "disappointing" count result comes in the same week the trust seeks public donations for a "double your money" £60,000 one-week appeal to help floodplain meadows like those at Iffley.

Mr Williams said: "Funds raised will help us to continue managing this reserve as a traditional hay meadow, so that not only the fritillaries but all the other important plants and animals here will continue to flourish."

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