Corn cockle – planting, care and tips

A corn cockle flower
A corn cockle flower

The corn cockle is a poisonous field weed that graced the field edges and fields almost everywhere until the 1960s. With the help of modern weed control agents, this plant has become very rare today, it is even almost extinct and is therefore on the red list.

Profile of corn cockle:

Scientific name: Agrostemma githago

Plant family: pink family (Caryophyllaceae)

Other names: corncockle

Sowing time / Planting time: March or September

Flowering period: June – August

Harvest time: early fall (the seeds of the corncockle are highly poisonous)

Useful plant parts: poisonous

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: humous, gritty to loamy, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: The plant should not be used because of the toxicity.

Use as aromatic herb: The plant should not be used because of the toxicity.

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of corn cockle

Origin and occurrence

At her heyday, the plant was found in many parts of the world, including Europe, and ill-reputed as a dangerous poison plant. The corn cockle probably originated from the eastern Mediterranean, but has spread quickly by the settling of man and the accompanied agriculture: it grew as a field crop on the edge of cereal fields.

Because the plant and especially its seeds are highly poisonous and mingled with the harvest, people used to be poisoned again and again. However, with beginning of industrial agriculture, the use of pesticides and ever more efficient machines, this danger is banned – but the wild plant is also almost completely extinct. It is on the Red List of many countries. However, in the garden it gets a new start, so that the plant is again available in the specialized trade as seed. Mostly it is offered as part of wildflower or summer flower mixtures for the ornamental garden.

Plant order of corn cockle

The corn cockle (Agrostemma githago) is an almost forgotten summer flower from the pink family (Caryophyllaceae).

Characteristics of the corn cockle

Plant

The corncockle is annual, its look loose and upright. The stature height can vary greatly and ranges from small 30 to high 90 centimeters (12 to 36 in). The wild plant grows herbaceous and forms a taproot reaching deeply into the ground.

Leaves

The narrow lineal, entire leaves of corn cockle are, as well as their stems, tomentose-gray hairy. They are arranged opposite each other.

Flowering

The flowering period is from June to August, depending on the weather even until September. The flowers of the corncockle are cup-shaped and pink to red-violet colored. Their center is lighter, sometimes even white, the petals are white-veined. All in all, the small flowers are very picturesque and decorative.

Ripeness

Corn cockle forms capsule fruits with many seeds in early autumn – it tends to self-seed at suitable locations. The seeds, however, only come out by themselves when the pericarp is weathered or, as in the past, broken open by threshing and harvesting. But you can also open the fruits by hand. The seeds are black, egg- to kidney-shaped and – given the very filigree plant – relatively large. Attention: As already mentioned, the seeds of the cornrade are very poisonous!

corn cockle
corn cockle

Corn cockle – cultivation and care

Location

The corn cockle feels very well both in the sun and in partial shade.

Soil

Corn cockle has no bigger demands to the soil. Normal, dry to fresh garden soil with moderately high nutrient content is quite sufficient. Slightly mixed sand provides good drainage.

Sowing

The seeds are sewn in March or September just after seed maturity. In both cases, it is sown directly in the field. Experience has shown that autumn seeds bloom a little earlier in the following year. Sow very densely and replant the young plants at a distance of 30 cm (12 in) if necessary.

Watering

The plant tolerates dryness.

Diseases and pests

In the garden and under suitable cultivation conditions, the plant has no problems with plant diseases or pests.

Care

At suitable locations, the corn cockle grows by itself. If you want to prevent spreading in the bed, cut the flowers before seeds develop.

Use of corn cockle

The plant should not be used because of the toxicity.

Use as an ornamental plant

Corn cockle, with its delicate appearance and pink flowers, radiates natural beauty that best suits gardens with natural design. Often you can see them in the cottage garden or in the natural garden, where it decorates perennial beds and borders. At the same time, as a bee-friendly plant, it enhances nature conservation in the garden: its nectar and its pollen are easily accessible to insects thanks to the wide-open flowers. With seed mixtures from summer flowers or wildflowers, entire garden areas can be planted in a colorful way. In wildflower meadows it sets charming, purple accents.

Tip

The corn cockle also cuts a good figure as a cut flower in the vase. It is suitable for summer bouquets as well as natural wildflower arrangements.

Buy corn cockle – What to pay attention to?

You can buy the plant online or in specialized trade as seed.

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