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Heath lobelia given a helping hand

A nationally rare plant, Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens), has just been given a helping hand by the Habitat First Group (HFG) at Silverlake, Dorset. With only 6 populations of this plant known to be remaining in the UK it is considered to be vulnerable to extinction.

In a trial that is the first of its kind for this species, Heath lobelia plants have been translocated from a local Dorset population to a site at Silverlake where they have been protected from grazing animals using secure wooden enclosures.

The project, funded by HFG, brings together botanical expertise from Dorset County Council, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Natural England.

Dr Phoebe Carter, Chief Ecologist for HFG says: “Loss of suitable habitat is one of the main causes for the decline of this plant and by translocating this plant to Silverlake we hope to help reverse the decline and protect this beautiful plant for future generations. Nature conservation is key to our developments and we work hard to ensure that we build alongside nature, enhancing habitats and protecting species on our sites.”

Robin Walls, Dorset County Recorder appointed by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland says: “The present site is threatened by encroaching scrub and vigorous grasses which the Dorset Flora Group has been struggling to control for years. The opportunity to establish a second Dorset site nearby is wonderful. The exacting conditions for Heath lobelia to flourish are not easily found in the present landscape. Restored quarry sites have great potential for this and a number of other species we are losing from our heathlands due to abandonment of practices which disturbed the ground. We are very grateful to HFG’s help in this exciting project”

Annabel King, Dorset County Council Senior Ecologist says: “DCC is thrilled to be part of this collaborative project, which is helping secure the future of a very rare plant in Dorset. Working in partnership has enabled us to make the most of the developing heathland habitat on the old quarry at Silverlake, and carry out habitat management at the existing heath lobelia site nearby.”

Despite the extremes of cold and heat experienced this year the translocated plants have survived and are in flower. The Heath lobelia will be monitored regularly and the habitat managed effectively to ensure the plants thrive. It is hoped that a vigorous and robust population of Heath lobelia will establish at Silverlake which will help to secure the future of the plant for years to come.

Header image: Heath lobelia in flower at Silverlake. Credit: Habitat First Group.

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