CORN-COCKLE

Agrostemma githago

Carnation & Campion Family [Caryophyllaceae]  

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug

status
statusZarchaeophyte
flower
flower8mauve
inner
inner8white
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round
toxicity
toxicityZhigh

30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
A tall, few=branched slim plant with a single flower atop each stalk.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The strikingly long sepal teeth protrude well beyond the petals.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flowers are rolled up like a newspaper. The whole plant is mostly covered in long white hairs


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tube is slightly inflated, and covered in hairs.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The whole aspect of the flower is reminiscent of a shuttle-cock, which may be the derivation of the name.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
There are five mauve-coloured petals, at first only half-opened and over-lapping.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Fully opened flowers display a white centre with indigo streaks on the petals.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
A fully opened flower. Growing amongst a wild-flower seeding of Corn Chamomile.


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Having shed the petals the sepal tube inflates like Bladder Campion (it is of the same family).


30th Aug 2009, Philips Park, Prestwich, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The leaves which are long narrow lanceolate and in pairs have long hairs that sprout mostly at the edges.


Not to be semantically confused with : Rough Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) [a plant with similar name belonging to a different Family].

Distinguishing Feature : Shaped like a shuttlecock with five extra-long thin sepals projecting well beyond the boundaries of the petals.

Was once a very common weed of cornfields but now virtually extinct due to herbicides and that the seed of Corn-cockle does not remain viable for very long when dormant in the soil. Now much more likely to be seen growing in seeds sold and sown as 'wild-flower mixtures'.

The only member of the Agrostemma Genus (at least in the UK).

The shuttlecock shape is reminiscent of that of Goatsbeard but that has eight rather than five extended sepals.

TRITERPENE SAPONINS

Githagenin (aka Githagin, aka Gypsogenin) is one of a number toxic of triterpene saponins present in Corn-cockle. Agrostemmic Acid is another. Together with a non-proteinogenic amino acid, orcylalanin (2,4-dihydroxy-6-methyl-phenyl-L-alanine - a substituted phenylalanine or Tyrosine) and a lectin agrostin make the seeds of Corn-cockle especially poisonous, but all parts of the plant contain some toxins. Formerly widespread as a weed amongst cereal crops, the seeds of Corn-cockle presented a particular contaminatory hazard to the harvest. The seeds are lethal in amounts greater than just 5 grams. Symptoms include mucosal irritation, dizziness, vomiting, diarhoea, respiratory distress, headache, pains in the spine, tachycardia, paralysis coma followed by death. Poisoning of humans and livestock used to be a common occurrence, but after several decades of herbicidal spraying, it is more or less extinct in arable fields.


Alanine is just shown for comparison, it is not reported as being present in Corn-cockle, but may well be.

NITROGEN FIXATION



The seedlings, like other seedlings, contain both Allantoin and Allantoic Acid. Both Allantoic Acid, along with Allantoin, are involved in fixing nitrogen in the root nodules of the Pea Family especially in Soybeans, and are transported upwards in the xylem for further use by the plants. The plants use these chemicals in the production of other nitrogenous compounds. It will be seen that the two structures are almost identical, with Allantoin having the right-most group swivelled about and fused into a ring, losing one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, i.e. water, in the process.

Excepting humans, allantoin is a major un-wanted by-product of metabolism in animals that is excreted in urine. It is also a major metabolite in plants, and is also present in Comfrey. It is artificially manufactured on a grand scale for use in cosmetics as moisturisers and to help the skin shed dead outer skin cells, making the skin feel smooth, all to make the person look younger.

Allantoin is also used as a Vulnerary ointment for treating wounds, so, as such, is not actually a pharmaceutical for internal use.


  Agrostemma githago  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Caryophyllaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pink family8Carnation family8Campion family8Caryophyllaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Agrostemma
Agrostemma
(Corncockle)

CORN-COCKLE

Agrostemma githago

Carnation & Campion Family [Caryophyllaceae]  

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