CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 14

A study in pink
The great ‘adventurer’, the Deptford Pink. Christian
anthropocentric idea of unleashing big animals to
go feral in an urban dreamscape in which the living
presence of nature is not comprehended.
Barry Cunliffe’s recent bestseller By Steppe,
Desert, and Ocean (2015) is full of the influence
of landscape on the story of human development.
His definition of human history has an ecological
ring to it. ‘History…is the subtle interweaving of
human actions spread over vast landscapes and
through deep time creating a dense fabric, every
thread of which has significance. The wonder of
it all lies in how interconnected everything is.’
Cunliffe’s two big themes are connectivity and
mobility. ‘The steppe, the deserts and the oceans
created the connective tissue through which people,
commodities, and ideas flowed.’
This flow has extended beyond humanity. Plants
have for centuries travelled over land and sea with
people, to be absorbed into the nature of Britain and
Ireland. This continues. The dense fabric of nature is
bound up with human history, and what we perceive
as natural has been woven into human history over
millennia. Mobility and connectivity are as essential
to an understanding of natural history as they are
to human history, and both run together. The story
of Dianthus armeria is a thread in the human story.
Deptford Pink is attractive, and inoffensive to
human interests. I like it, and I want it to thrive. It
seems to me that it has done remarkably well in a
world dominated by one species, and from which
nature is being eliminated. I do wonder what all the
legislation, action plans, time, money and activity
invested in this one species have achieved.
I regret that some organisations have retreated
from the challenges of saving, restoring and
managing wildlife-rich habitats in favour of a softer
option: manipulating sites to benefit particular rare
species. This runs the risk of leaving nature out of
conservation, with the latter poised to step through
the garden gate. Ecology is about the relationships
between living things, and nature conservation
should seek to apply the lessons of ecology to the
management of the environment. Wild plants are
elements in a tableau which expresses climate, soil,
topography and also community. It is the tableau
with which nature conservation should concern
itself. But I do not think that the authenticity
of wild plants, their otherness from the humanengineered environment, depends on native status.
This account of the Deptford Pink is one of human
connection, and of mobility.
Akeroyd, J. [E.] (ed. and comp.) 1996. The wild plants of Sherkin,
Cape Clear and adjacent islands of West Cork. Sherkin Island Marine
Station, Sherkin Island.
Akeroyd, J. R., & Clarke, K. 1993. Dianthus armeria L. new to Ireland
and other rare plants in West Cork. Watsonia 19: 185–193.Coleman,
W. H., & Webb, R. H. 1849. Flora Hertfordiensis. London.
Colgan, N., & Scully, R. W. 1898. Cybele Hibernica. Edward Ponsonby,
Cunliffe, B. 2015. By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia.
Druce, G. C. 1926. The Flora of Buckinghamshire. Arbroath.
Gerard, J. 1633. The Herbal or Generall Historie of Plantes. Enlarged
and amended by Thomas Johnson.
Grigson, G. 1958. The Englishman’s Flora. Phoenix House.
Killick, J., Perry, R., & Woodell, S. 1998. The Flora of Oxfordshire. Pisces.
Long, M. 2013. Dianthus armeria on Inis Meáin – Are there other
populations out there? Irish Botanical News 23: 21–22.
Lousley, J. E. 1976. Flora of Surrey. David & Charles.
Mabey, R. 1996. Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson.
O’Mahony, T. 2006. Mibora minima (L.) Desv., Early Sand-grass
(Poaceae) in West Cork (H3): an addition to the Irish Flora. Irish
Botanical News 16: 5–13.
O’Mahony, T. 2009. Wildflowers of Cork City and County. The Collins
Press, Cork.
Pratt, A. 1889. Flowering Plants of Great Britain. Warne, London.
Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A., & Dines, T. D. (eds) 2002. New Atlas of
the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press.
Robertson, J. 2015. Plants – Wales. British Wildlife 27(1): 61–62.
James Robertson co-edits the Welsh wildlife
magazine Natur Cymru – Nature of Wales (www., and is a regular contributor to
British Wildlife.
160 British Wildlife February 2016
BWM27_3 02 deptford pink.indd 160
29/01/2016 11:44


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