The rare and deadly corncockle has been spotted in South Tyneside.
The rare and deadly corncockle has been spotted in South Tyneside.Wikicommons

A rare and extremely poisonous wildflower is making a comeback at a South Tyneside beauty spot.

The corncockle was believed extinct, wiped out by modern farming methods, but a single bloom has been spotted in the land surrounding Souter Lighthouse in Witham.

However, the public has been warned not to approach it as the flower is highly poisonous.

"It is highly toxic and shouldn't be touched," said Mick Simpson, a National Trust ranger for The Leas and Whitburn, told the Shields Gazette.

"It was discovered earlier this week by my colleague Dougie Holden.

"The seed for the corncockle is contained in wildflower seed mixes and could be that it has blown over from a garden on to the land.

"It will be interesting to see if we get more wildflowers growing in the future."

The incredibly rare flower is thought to have been brought to the UK by Iron Age farmers. During the Elizabethan age, the corncockle was very common and was mentioned by Shakespeare in one of his plays, Coriolanus.

However, the slender pink flower's number drastically decreased due to increased use of herbicides. Also, the changing patterns of agriculture affected the corncockle as most wheat is now sown in the autumn and then harvested before any of the wildflowers would have flowered or seeded.

All parts of the plant are poisonous and it has been used in folk medicine despite the risk of it containing deadly toxins.

Symptoms include severe muscle pain, respiratory depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, vertigo and paralysis.

In European folklore, the corncockle's seeds have been used for treating cancers, tumours, warts and apostemes (hard swellings in the uterus). Its seeds have also been said to have local anesthetic effects.