An authoritative report just published claims that a fifth of all British plant species are under threat.
Agriculture, overgrazing and use of herbicides and fertilizers are thought to be to blame. The report, entitled The Vascular Plant Red Data List
is the result of two years research coordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. In contrast to previous 'red data lists' this one looked at population trends as well as population levels to decide whether or not a plant should be regarded as endangered, so a plant which is severely declining in numbers could be included on the list even if its overall population is not yet at critical levels. The report indicates that whilst we have spent much time and effort on conserving plants which are already at low population densities, we have not done enough to support once common plants which have undergone dramatic declines.
Some of those species included on the new red list which were previous absent include:
- corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis)
- prickly poppy (Papaver argemone)
- night-flowering catchfly (Silene noctiflora)
- purple milk-vetch (Astragalus danicus)
- eyebright (Euphrasia anglica)
- yellow bird's-nest (Monotropa hypopitys)
- holly fern (Polystichum lonchitis)
- dodder (Cuscuta epithymum)
- field gentian (Gentianella campestris)
There is a potential role for gardeners to help conserve these and others of our native plants by giving them space in our own gardens.