An extraordinarily vivid pink flower which grows at a range of sites in England, but feared to be one of our fastest declining species.
Rarity: 24 sites across England an South Wales, with as stronghold in Buckfastleigh in Devon.
Cause of decline: Lack of management at several of its sites has led to the loss of the open conditions it requires for survival. This has combined with a decrease in animals likely to spread the seeds to greatly endanger remaining populations.
Deptford Pink is a striking member of the Pink family, closely related to many of the blooms seen commonly in gardens. It is native across much for Europe, east to the Caucasus, and has become naturalised in North America.
Deptford Pink has been used in traditional medicine for various purposes, such as treating digestive ailments and as a diuretic. It has also been used in horticulture as an ornamental plant in flower gardens, particularly for its attractive flowers and fragrant scent.
It is a biennial or short-lived perennial herbaceous plant that typically grows to a height of 30-60 centimeters (12-24 inches) and has slender stems. The leaves are linear or lanceolate, oppositely arranged, and typically blue-green in color. The flowers are fragrant and have five petals, which are usually pink to purple in color, although white or pale pink varieties also exist. The flowers are solitary or arranged in loose clusters at the top of the stems, and they bloom from May to September, attracting bees and butterflies as pollinators.
Ecology and Conservation
Deptford Pink usually occurs as a biennial, forming a rosette in its first summer before flowering in its second year, but can sometimes complete its lifecycle in a single season. The rosettes, if present, can be be found all year round. It is generally self-pollinated, produces abundant seed but has a germination period of up to 5 months.
It is heavily reliant on bare ground in order to germinate and establish basal rosettes, and therefore can be lost rapidly from unmanaged habitats.
Plants respond well to light ground disturbance, so site management focusses of creating this habitat on a cyclical basis. Some sites have natural occurrence of bare ground, and here the plants can survive in a less tightly managed setting.
Its seeds appear to have good dispersal mechanisms, and this combined with unofficial plantings, have meant that new populations are frequently recorded, but few persist for long.
Our work on this species has focussed on mainitning a monitoring network across all the Enlgish and Welsh sites. This also entails following up on multiple new reports of the species appearance.
In Buckfastleigh (Devon) we are working closely with community groups to maintain the species stronghold and rise awareness of its specula status in this location.
As our work moves forward we are looking to stabilise populations in over 1.5 times as many sites as it currently occurs in, and achieve high numbers of plants for successive years in those sites.