A joint project between the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and the National Trust has culminated in over 1500 strapwort plants being planted on the shores around Loe Pool in Cornwall, a site where it was last recorded in the early 1900s.
The tiny plants were grown by the horticultural team at Paignton Zoo (run by WWCT) using seed from plants at Slapton Ley, a nature reserve also owned by WWCT. This was previously the only site for the Critically Endangered Strapwort in the UK.
Once the plants arrived at Loe Pool, staff and volunteers from both organisations combined to undertake the mammoth task of getting them all into the ground. The site had been carefully selected with the open conditions required for strapwort. The new plants were already flowering and ready to produce seed for the next generation. The low water levels meant there was plenty of shoreline and it should continue to drop over the summer.
The newly planted population was closely monitored over the summer. Alex Millington, a researcher from the University of Exeter, was on site for much of the summer, watching for the first new Cornish plants for 100 years and recording data for his dissertation.
Strapwort is a small plant with white flowers which is found on the shores of freshwater lakes and rivers. It needs the bare shore left as the summer water levels drop to grow and produce its tiny seeds. These are spread by water and possibly birds’ feet.
Slapton Ley has always been known by botanists as the place to spot strapwort, and people on their knees peering closely at the ground around the shores of the Ley is not an uncommon sight. A combination of research, site management and supplementing the Slapton population has led to sustainable numbers and improved knowledge about the ecology of this choosy little plant. Grazing animals historically kept much of the shoreline open, but these days the clearance work is done by FSC reserves officer Nick Binnie and a willing band of volunteers. However, as a single population, it was at high risk of extinction, so Natural England funded us to undertake a study to look at other potential sites.
We looked at several sites but the National Trust site at Loe Pool was always the most likely as it had historic links with strapwort. It was recorded there in the late 1800s as being prolific before declining and disappearing in the early 1900s. Conditions in the pool have improved over the last 15 years so reintroduction is now possible.
The National Trust were also keen to see it growing there once again. Laura Bailey, the NT ranger for Loe Pool, has been preparing the site with volunteers by clearing some scrub to create the open conditions it needs.
For more information please visit: