For those of you not familiar with the pigmy rush – here it is....
– a big example may be up to 10cm tall. It is a Mediterranean-Atlantic species on its northern limit in southern Britain, where it is found only on the Lizard. It grows in the rutted tracks that criss-cross the heathlands, in seasonally wet pools, and in muddy gateways. It shares this peculiar habitat choice with two other Lizard specialities – Yellow Centaury (Cicendia filiformis) and Three Lobed Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus tripartitus). Unfortunately for these habitat specialists there are no longer carts criss-crossing the old ways of the Lizard and the tracks have grown in with more vigorous species. Botanists have been alert to the decline, and this year Plantlife (represented by Andy Byfield who has been studying the Lizard flora on –and –off for thirty years) and Natural England (represented by Ray Lawman who has been managing the Lizard NNR for more years than anyone can remember), put together a bid for a project funded by Sita under Landfill tax regulations.
This reinstatement of a site where the rare plants were once recorded is one of about a dozen projects which aim to reinstate habitats for plant species which are struggling through changing habitats.
And here is the result of a couple of days work – about a kilometre of habitat on its way to reinstatement. The top layers of heather, bog rush, purple moor grass and decades of decaying matter have been removed to expose the loess soil beneath. And hopefully in that soil are the dormant seeds of pigmy rush and its associates.
We will need to replicate the occasional passing of a cart but with a landrover or tractor instead to ensure that there is ongoing disturbance of the substrate. We will begin to find out next spring whether our endeavours will bear fruit. However, within days there was some lovely amphibian habitat, and an adder and common lizard had found it to be an excellent basking area. I will let you know what happens.
Click here for more articles about conservation work on the Lizard.