A COLONY near Alresford of one of the UK’s rarest plants has been destroyed following the removal of a hedgerow.

The grubbing up to amalgamate two fields on land at Fobdown has affected the ‘pheasants eye’ - a distinctive red flower - which Alresford resident and botanist Pete Flood is calling “a tragedy”.

In the 20th century, seed-sorting techniques hindered the species’ means of distribution, limiting them to isolated populations, and herbicides have further decimated numbers.

‘Pheasant’s eye’ all but disappeared from UK fields, persisting in only in a handful of spots in southern England.

One of these places was an arable margin bordered by hedge and woodland at Fobdown, between Wayfarer’s Walk and Oxdrove Way.

There also grew a number of other declining species including dwarf spurge, rye brome, and the last-but-one population of ‘pheasant’s eye’ in Hampshire.

But this month the hedge was grubbed up and the margin put under the plough, although it is uncertain which landowner had undertaken the work and whether there was any contact with the authorities about the work.

Mr Flood, former drummer in folk band Bellowhead, said: “It’s tragic to see the loss of such prime arable margin habitat, and one of the best colonies of this exceedingly rare plant to be found anywhere in the UK, but I’m still hopeful that Natural England and the landowner can work together to repair the damage done.”

He said it was an example of the loss of diversity. Stone curlews, ring ouzels and golden plover are all losing out to pheasants.

A spokeswoman for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust told the Chronicle they were unaware of the hedgerow’s removal, but that “removing hedgerows to amalgamate fields isn’t best practice.”

Mr Flood said he has alerted Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre, Natural England and Plantlife and the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

He said he hoped Natural England, “who are the only ones with any clout in a matter like this, will involve themselves directly.”

The Chronicle has not yet been able to establish which landowner removed the hedge and for what reason.

Pheasant’s Eye originated in southern Europe, arriving in the Iron Age, probably contaminating a shipment of grain.

Its numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent. Seeds will have survived but would need the farmer’s cooperation to bring the plants back in any numbers.