The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) has recently published a definitive catalogue of England’s threatened plants. Previous ‘Red Lists’ have always been for the whole of Great Britain, so tended to mask differences between Scotland – with its small human population and less polluted environment – and England. For example, many wetland plants requiring clean water remain widespread in Scotland but are almost extinct in England, especially in the arable lowlands of the east.
The categories used in Red Lists are rather complicated but, briefly, Vulnerable species are under serious threat, undergoing long-term and continuing declines. Near Threatened species are not immediately at risk but could become so.
At Rawcliffe Meadows, we have six flowering plants classed as Vulnerable in England:
- Lesser Marshwort (Apium inundatum) – accidentally introduced from a North Yorkshire site to a pond in the flood basin about five years ago, where it continues to flourish. Formerly widespread, this delicate aquatic umbellifer needs clean, clear water and has disappeared from almost all its former sites in the Vale of York.
- Tubular Water-dropwort (Oenanthe fistulosa) – found in pond and ditch margins, including several of our flood basin ponds.
- Bladder Sedge (Carex vesicaria) – an attractive lime-green sedge which prefers wetlands where fertility levels are not too high. It grows in ditches on Rawcliffe and Clifton Ings as well as in two ponds at Rawcliffe Meadows.
- Corn Spurrey (Spergula arvensis) – this dainty annual is one of many formerly common arable flowers which are in severe decline. It prefers slightly acidic soils such as the sandy silt of the Cornfield, where it is locally-abundant.
- Corn Marigold (Glebionis segetum) – an archetypal flower of sandy arable land, appearing in small amounts from time-to-time in the Cornfield.
- Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum) – a plant of floodplain grasslands and coastal grazing marshes, discovered in the flood basin last year.
Four plants are listed as Near Threatened in England:
- Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris) – a small annual plant of sandy ground which appears occasionally in the Corneld. Like many other “common” wildflowers, it is now increasingly scarce. Indeed, Common Cudweed is known from just one other site in the biological recording ‘vice-county’ of North-east Yorkshire.
- Corn Mint (Mentha arvensis) – another declining plant of cultivated land, particularly abundant in the Cornfield.
- Ragged Robin (Silene flos-cucculi) – a familiar yet declining flower of wet meadows: doing well in the flood basin with occasional plants in Copse Meadow.
- Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) – introduced to fen-meadow habitat in the flood basin about 15 years ago, using plants grown from seed collected from Hob Moor.