5 Endangered Plant Species

A changing world

Earlier this month we released a piece about some of the most unusual plant species that are now extinct and while global seed banks are working to preserve the species that are alive today, there are some that are still under threat.

Scientists have estimated that in the last 250 years, more than 571 species of plants have gone extinct.

Although there are a variety of reasons for this, be they urbanisation, disease, environmental decline, or lack of resources, the common theme is that the cause is usually human in origin.

As such, and to continue raising awareness of the dangers of climate change, we thought we’d provide a reminder of what wonders we could lose from our UK wilderness’ if current trends don’t change.

Here are 5 of the most threatened plant species in Britain.

Ghost Orchid

You may recall the Ghost Orchid from our articles on the mycellial network as the flower without leaves that exchanges nutrients for photosynthetic sugars via fungal networks in the soil.

Unfortunately, this evolutionary path leaves the Ghost more vulnerable than most to environmental changes such as soil erosion or overharvesting. Ghost Orchids will also only flower after extremely cold winters and as our planet warms, these conditions are not as available as they once were.

Red Helleborine

Conservation of the Red Helleborine has been an ongoing effort for many UK botanists in recent years but they are meeting with limited success. No new seedlings are currently being produced in the wild and even in controlled nurseries those seedlings that can be produced and dispersed are showing feeble growth compared to expectations.

The reasons are most likely to do with their natural habitat, semi-shaded woodland areas, being increasingly encroached upon by human development.

Yellow Birds-nest

Similarly to the Ghost Orchid, Yellow Birds-nest derives its nutrients via underground microrhizal fungi rather than via photosynthesis. However, this also leaves it prey to the same dangers that the Ghost Orchid faces as well as increased woodland clearance in the face of infrastructural development and urbanisation.

Cotswold Pennycress

A surprising addition to the list given the fairly barren environments that the Cotswold Pennycress thrives in. Usually these small grey flowers can be found growing among the scree of old quarries, among hedgerow thickets, and in former building sites.

Unfortunately, the removal of hedges and older brick structures, the levelling and ploughing of natural landscapes, and our increased use of fertilisers and herbicides have left it at the mercy tougher plants that smother its chances of survival.

Meadow Clary

Also known as Meadow Sage, these tall, purple flowering plants usually grow on the borders of forests or peppered throughout grazing land and among wildgrasses.

As a result, their biggest threats consist of new farming methodology that crowds their habitats with new strains of grass or sees them overgrazed by livestock.

Here ends our list of endangered UK plants but hopefully it will not be the end of their story. While many of these species are not suitable for a home garden, you can help to support their survival by taking care of your local green spaces and creating green corridors for pollinators like bees and butterflies to move through your own garden.

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at drought-resistant plants you can grow at home to help maintain your garden’s colour and biodiversity through the fiercely hot summers ahead.

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