Oh deary deary. I’ve tried to hold off, really, I have. I’ve been stifling back a really moany post about newspapers’ punctuation and italicisation of scientific names. Really, it’s for my own good. It wouldn’t show me at my best. But while all my attention is on the errant capitals another one sneaks up in the Telegraph today – and this time it’s a corker.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent: The summer mix of sunshine and rain has helped some of Britain’s rarest wild flowers make an unexpected return to the countryside, claims charity. Perfect weather conditions for plants in recent months have seen a number of the UK’s native species, including carnations and ferns, brought back from the brink of extinction.
See the problem here? Ever been to a wedding, gents? Worn a carnation in your buttonhole, maybe? Doubtless. And did you realise just how endangered the native carnation might be? Probably not. In fact, definitely not: there’s no such thing as a native carnation. Later in its own article The Telegraph explains this howler by saying, correctly “the rescued plants include the Deptford Pink, which is a wild species of carnation.” But that’s not really the same thing, is it?
The Deptford Pink is a delicate wild flower. It has declined severely in the UK over the last 60 years, exhibiting one of the most rapid declines of any species in the British flora. Having once been widespread, it was reduced to 34 sites by 1970 and is now known from only 13 to 15 sites. This decline appears to be ongoing and most of the remaining populations are small, although there are a few sites with hundreds of plants where conditions are suitable. Deptford pink is not threatened in Europe as a whole, where it occurs widely across western and central regions.(ref) The carnation, by contrast is perhaps the gaudiest, tackiest cut flower out. Millions of the things are raised under hot lights in glasshouses across the world, to be wrapped in tinfoil and speared upside-down with pins onto the lapels of cheap suits. Just not the same thing, even if they are vaguely related. The picture shows nasty garden carnations in their full glory – why not find a real picture of the lovely Deptford pink? The Telegraph could just as well have used this picture instead: