CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 12



A study in pink
Spotted Rock-rose. James Robertson
of the Irish flora, Blue-eyed Grass Sisyrinchium
angustifolium is also a good colonist. There is a
possibility, however remote, that other rare plants
have arrived through human intervention, and
blended into their surroundings, confusing botanists. Even Anglesey’s County Flower, the delightful
Spotted Rock-rose Tuberaria guttata, could have
spread through human agency to reach relatively
virgin post-glacial landscapes along the north-west
European seaboard.
When I showed Deptford Pink to a friend
recently I was committing an offence, because I
had intentionally broken off a piece of a Section
8 plant. It is a weed in my garden, albeit a muchappreciated one, charming me with its raggedy
pink petals flecked with white. Ten years ago I was
thrilled to have it appear in a pot, and nurtured it;
now it is widespread. In cultivation it can grow
not far short of a yard tall, like the plant which
Anne Pratt found, which was, I expect, an adventurer, too. I have watched it thrive in gravel beds;
grow for a short while in flower beds, brought in
with home-made compost; and appear in pots.
This last talent is the most impressive. Seeds are
able to spring from upright pods when animals
or gardeners brush against them as they pass by.
Occasionally one will land on sterile compost on
the surface of a pot, to germinate and develop a
shiny rosette of strap-like leaves. It is immediately
recognisable even when very small, and I have not
the heart to weed it out. Pinks and pelargoniums
often cohabit in pots in my greenhouse. I know
five other botanists, two on Anglesey, who have it
in their gardens ‘as a weed’. I suspect that it is in
many gardens, and may now be more common in
the UK than ever before.
Deptford Pink can thrive in gravel beds. James Robertson
Protection and conservation
In 1998, Deptford Pink was added to the evergrowing list of plants on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife
and Countryside Act 1981. Such plants must not be
picked, uprooted or destroyed (or sold), for which
actions you may be prosecuted if it can be shown
that you did so intentionally. There is, however,
a loophole: the ‘lawful operation that could not
reasonably be avoided’ defence. A farmer need not
be unduly concerned if he lawfully ploughs up a
field full of protected plants.
You may wonder why so many rare plants,
including bryophytes and fungi which few people
are able to identify, have been added to Schedule
8, knowing how minuscule is the possibility of
prosecution or, indeed, any tangible benefit for the
species. Perhaps the answer is that it costs nothing
and pleases conservation organisations.
158 British Wildlife February 2016
BWM27_3 02 deptford pink.indd 158
29/01/2016 11:44

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