A small yet striking gentian, showing one of the fastest declines of any native wildflower.
Rarity: Ten sites in southern England (three of which are on The Lizard in Cornwall, and four in Hampshire’s New Forest), as well as a handful of sites in Wales.
Cause of decline: Their decline can roughly be associated with the decline of semi-natural grasslands, due to changes in agriculture. It cannot survive in ungrazed grassland.
If ever the term ‘small is beautiful’ was coined for a flowering plant, this would probably be it. Field Gentian is the jewel in the crown of unimproved grazed pastures, whether it be in the hilly limestone of the Lake District, the windswept expanses of the welsh coastal dune systems or the lowland acid grasslands lawns of the New Forest.
Field Gentian is a member of a group of flowering plants with an often complex ecology and taxonomy. It has proven incredibly difficult to grow and maintain plants ex situ, and in the wild there is uncertainty about when plants first germinate, and what factors trigger this process.
In the heatwave of 2018 virtually every population in the south of England failed, which gave a chilling preview of that may befall this and other species of dry skeletal grasslands in a post climate-change world.
When conditions (and in particular grazing levels) are optimal, then huge populations can emerge, in turn producing millions of seeds, so with the right management across its range of sites we hope to keep this species thriving across most of its range.