Corncockle is a lovely little plant to have around, there’s no doubt about that. But beauty does not necessarily mean it is safe! If you have been wondering “Is corncockle poisonous?” then you are not alone – and luckily for you, we have discovered the answers to this question – and more!
What You'll Learn Today
Is Corncockle Poisonous?
Well, the answer to this depends on which part of the plant you are talking about – some parts are fine, others are definitely not.
The leaves and stems are not poisonous – grazing animals in fields can chomp away on these quite happily, with no adverse effects.
The seeds, however, are incredibly poisonous. Even a small amount of ingestion of the seeds can cause serious harm or even death.
The seeds contain Githagin and Agrostemmic acid, which can inhibit protein synthesis and cause death.
As a wildflower, poisonings of animals was relatively common back when our fields were more diverse – they could easily munch a corncockle by accident.
Eating the seeds whole caused less of a problem, as the toxins are stored inside the shell of the seed – but even this could cause health issues.
The most common victims of corncockle poisoning were poultry, which tend not to be as discerning about what they eat than many grazing animals.
There have even been cases of corncockle poisoning in humans, after eating bread made with flower that was contaminated by corncockle.
This video is not about corncockle, but it’s a an interesting look at how many of the plants we unwittingly grow can actually kill us!
Can You Eat Corncockle Seeds?
In short, no you cannot! Not unless you really fancy a trip to hospital and potentially some truly serious health issues.
To be fair, there is absolutely nothing in the world that would make you want to eat corncockle seeds – they are hard and bitter.
If you accidentally swallowed one or two you would almost certainly end up with stomach pains and vomiting, but you would likely not die.
The problem could arise if you mistook the seeds for something else and consumed a large amount of them, or accidentally ate them in some other product.
Seeing as corncockle is largely extinct in the wild now, and largely exists as a pretty cottage garden plant, there really should be nothing for you to worry about.
What Is Corncockle Used For?
These days, we know that ingesting the corncockle plant – whether seeds, flowers, leaves or stems – is not very good for our health!
However, in times gone by this plant was used for medicine – as were a great many of our native plants and herbs.
Although we do not recommend that you try this at home, here is a list of things that corncockle used to be used for:
- Fluid retention
- Menstrual problems
It seems that it was the seeds that were used to treat these conditions, generally in dried and powdered form.
There is no evidence to suggest that these treatments actually worked, or if they caused even more problems!
Obviously as we learn more and more about things that are good and bad for us, many folk remedies are being left behind.
Now that we have the technology to analyse the active components in various plants, we tend not to use the ones that we know will cause us harm!
Best to leave these folk remedies in the past, though it is interesting to look into what people used to use as medicine in the olden days.
What Do You Do With Corncockle?
Despite the fact that this was once used as a medicinal herb, these days we have doctors and pharmacies with better ideas!
The best thing you can do with your corncockle is to plant it in your garden and enjoy its elegant stems and pretty flowers.
Like a good many fragrant flowers, this one is great at attracting pollinators, so you can be doing your bit for the environment as well as enjoying pretty borders.
Bees, butterflies and other pollinators will be attracted to the colour and scent of your corncockle flowers, making it a great addition to any garden.
You can cut corncockle and enjoy it in cut flower arrangements, but these flowers do not last long after they have been cut.
Pressing flowers is a fun pastime, and you can make all sorts of arty crafty things with them afterwards – just remember to avoid eating them!
You can use the cut stems and flowers of your corncockle for garden mulch; they will happily rot down with the rest of your compost and provide nutrients for other plants.
This interesting article gives you a little of the history of corncockle’s past medical uses – and explains why it is not recommended to ingest it!
Is Corncockle Rare?
Although it was once widespread and common in cornfields, corncockle in the wild is becoming increasingly rare.
With humanity’s love of weedkillers and pesticides, and the vast amounts of money that are available from growing crops, many of these wildflowers are becoming harder to find.
Farmers tend to eradicate everything but the thing they want to grow, meaning that many wildflowers that used to be abundant are dying out.
Thankfully, our love for flowers in our gardens can help keep corncockle – and other wildflowers – alive and thriving, even if they aren’t so wild any more.
You can buy corncockle seeds in just about any gardening store, but you are far more likely to find it here than growing in the wild.
In some areas, where sections of fields or even roadside verges are left to the wild, you can see the pretty wild corncockle growing.
Even if it is not very common in the wild, we can keep this beautiful plant alive for future generations by growing and cultivating it. Maybe it will make a comeback!
As you may already know, a great many of our popular garden plants are poisonous. This being said, they can only harm you if you eat them!
Hoepfully you now have a greater understanding of corncockle’s reputation and history, so you can avoid chomping on it as you wander around your garden!