Project hopes to protect sand loving plants

Holidaymakers enjoying the beaches and sand dunes around UK coastline this summer may be unaware of the spectacular wild flowers and other plants that sometimes live in the dunes behind the beaches.

Fen Orchid at Kenfig - Pic David Carrington

Fen Orchid at Kenfig - Pic David Carrington

Sadly some wild flowers and other coastal dune plants have declined drastically – some are already extinct.

Plantlife, a national plant charity,  is launching a pioneering new project which they hope will boost numbers of these rare plants by letting the sand dunes move again.

Sand dunes are complex, unstable systems that are naturally mobile, supporting a specialist flora that prefers the bare, calcium-rich sand.

Over the centuries, however, we have artificially and naturally stabilised Britain’s dunes with “A devastating effect on our biodiversity” according to Plantlife.

Lost plants from the dunes

A number of dune loving plants have, according to Plantlife, been lost in Britain. These include pear fruited bryum, long-leaved thread moss and cernuous bryum.

Andy Byfield, Plantlife’s landscape conservation manager who is leading the project, visited Kenfig Burrows in south Wales recently, a site of European importance. He said: “I’ve just found some fen orchids, which I’m delighted about. In the 1980s, seven sites around the Bristol channel supported perhaps as many as 100,000 orchids but today, this has declined to a single site of only about 400 plants, which shows why this project is so critical.”

Plantlife will be working initially at Kenfig Burrows in south Wales, in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council and the Countryside Council for Wales, and hopes to extend the project’s influence to other sites around the Bristol Channel.

About Kenfig Burrows:

It is one of the last remnants of a huge dune system that once stretched along the coast of Swansea Bay.

It supports a variety of plants and fungi in the dunes, saltmarsh, swamp woodland and scrub, including 100% of the UK population of the dune variant of fen orchid.

Only 2% of the dune system at Kenfig now comprises bare sand, down from around 40% in the mid 1940s. Early plant colonists including sea rocket, sea holly and yellow horned-poppy need bare sand to colonise.

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