Sunday, 6 August 2017

The World's Smallest Centaurium pulchellum?

During my recent July 'botanise-athon' I popped into Fairburn Ings, I fancied seeing what the river had to offer and wanted to have a look at the dog-roses in the knowledge that Rosa canina is soon to be formally split (at least in terms of our standard literature) into three species (canina, corymbosa and squarrosa) rendering most records to-date to aggregate status.

Anyway, I went round to the boot of my car to put my walking boots on and there at my feet were lots of a tiny Centaurium. Of course I new Lesser Centaury (Centaurium pulchellum) was here as a dwarf form, as Phyl Abbott had found it a couple of years previous new to VC64. I just thought I would need to do a lot more looking to find it. It was associated with the narrow strip of gravel along the edge of the car park, so I assumed it had been introduced with this substrate. It is a very rare plant in Yorkshire and indeed this far north where it is mainly coastal.

However, this was not the last I saw of this little gem. Pottering round an area of acid grassland, where there were extensive bare patches where water stands in the winter, I was surprised to find 100's of plants. All tiny and predominantly single stemmed with just one flower on top. Clearly this is a dwarf race, breeding true and undoubtedly maintained by selfing, rather than just an environment induced phenotype. Being so small I doubt it is troubled by pollinators any more, so it has painted itself into a bit of a genetic deadend. But it seems quite happy at the moment and should persist as long as there are areas of bare ground with no competition from larger plants.

Elsewhere there some great stands of Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum var. periclymenum).

And a small colony of this garden favourite, Rose Campion (Silene coronaria).

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