Harebells on Pentire Point, SW98

Jul 16, 2015 by

Harebells on Pentire Point, SW98

Ten Botanical Cornwall Group members met up with Sarah Stevens of the National Trust and two volunteers at Pentire Point on the north coast of Cornwall near Polzeath SW97. The aim of the meeting was to count the number of plants of Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) at Pentire Point, SW9280 and SW9380. Harebell is very rare in Cornwall (and Devon) and is restricted as a native to coastal grassland and cliffs at Pentire Point in East Cornwall (vc2) and the west side of the Lizard in West Cornwall (vc1). It is has also been recorded in other places but the status of these is uncertain and may refer to plants from a garden origin. According to research on Campanula rotundifolia by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, material collected from Pentire Point showed that the plants are hexaploids and these have been named as Campanula rotundifolia subsp. montana in Stace (2010).

During the very sunny day we methodically searched the cliffs, with John Sproull, Ian Bennallick and David Pearman venturing down along the lower slopes, and Sarah Board, Sarah Stevens and the rest surveying the upper slopes and by the coastal footpath. We found out early on that it is difficult to count numbers of plants, as the basal rosettes are often hidden by the thick Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) turf, and also in some places there were many small non-flowering plants in patches, difficult to separate. Previous National Trust surveys had noted down the numbers of flowering stalks so we carried on this methodology. We counted (and estimated in some places) a total of 8197 flowering stalks with most clumps having an average of 10 to 20 stalks, but there were also scattered individual flowering stalks in the turf, and some with more. A rough idea of number of plants could be between 410 and 820 plants, but if one includes all the non-flowering plants too the site could support at least a few hundred plants, maybe a thousand or more. Whatever the number, the population of Harebell at Pentire Point looks healthy. Those of us who have visited the site to look for Harebell before all remarked that there are more Harebell flowers in 2015 than previous years and this is probably due to the removal of sheep that graze the area before flowering. Grazing will be re-instated later in the year, to allow the Harebell plants to form ripe seed capsules before being eaten off.

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As to other recording we added or updated the following –
Calystegia silvatica subsp. disjuncta new to SW97
Cichorium intybus last recorded in SW98 in 1911 (though I am sure the plants in the field are put in as part of a crop)
Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius new to SW98
Phleum bertolonii last recorded in SW98 in 1977.

We also updated some 1km counts too.
SW9280 – Pentire Point was 110 total with 97 recorded after 1999 – now 157 total with 145 after 1999
SW9380 – Pentire Farm was 356 total with 266 recorded after 1999 – now 362 total with 277 after 1999
SW9679 – Porteath was 307 total with 226 recorded after 1999 – now 313 total with 245 after 1999

On the short turf or bare patches of the south-facing slopes of the west side of Pentire Point SW92458043 we looked for and found some Slender Bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus angustissimus) and Hairy Bird’s-foot-trefoil (L. subbiflorus), flowering and fruiting allowing us to compare the two. On the walk back through Pentire Farm, the stone hedges had masses of Garden Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) behaving as a native (maybe it is!) as well as Corn Parsley (Petroselinum segetum).

On the way back to the Lead Mines car park just east of Pentireglaze, we made a short visit to the population of Field Eryngo (Eryngium campestre) at SW93957989, growing in the sheep grazed field. A few flowers were seen but not as many as in 2014.

Ian Bennallick


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