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[British Wildflowers]

Willows on the Sefton Coast

Salix s doniana Phil Smith
Salix x doniana at Lifeboat Road, Formby, 2nd Oct. 2007.
One of the botanical highlights of the Sefton Coast is the remarkable richness of willows (Salix). So far about 30 different types have been identified here, 15 of them being hybrids. This compares with about 26 lowland willows in the whole of Cumbria, a county particularly rich in this group of plants (Halliday 1997). Open quotesNot only does the Sefton Coast have a great diversity of willows, but several of the hybrids found on the sand-dunes are extremely rare nationallyClose quotesNot only does the Sefton Coast have a great diversity of willows, but several of the hybrids found on the sand-dunes are extremely rare nationally. Recent on-line updates to the Atlas of the British and Irish Flora by the Botanical Society of the British Isles give a much better picture of the distribution of these rare hybrids in 10km squares (hectads) than was previously the case. Table 1 shows that the Sefton Coast is particularly well represented in the national distributions of four rare hybrids. However, the data do not take into account actual population sizes. Often, these hybrids occur in very low numbers, perhaps only one or two individuals at a particular location. On the Sefton Coast, however, one hybrid in particular, S. x friesiana, is known to be relatively common, perhaps occurring as hundreds of plants, while the other three are thought to reach double figures. For example, studies during 2007 have located two bushes of S. x doniana at Lifeboat Road, nine at Hightown and one at Cabin Hill NNR, which are additional to the ten or so already known on the coast. Recent visits to Cabin Hill found 97 bushes of S. x friesiana, while, nearby, at Range Lane there are about 30 specimens. Further north, Queen's Jubilee Nature Trail, Southport, supports at least 21 bushes of this nationally rare plant.

Open quotesOver the coming year, it is proposed to conduct a detailed survey of willow distribution and status on the Sefton Coast dune systemClose quotesOver the coming year, it is proposed to conduct a detailed survey of willow distribution and status on the Sefton Coast dune system. This will concentrate especially on the rare hybrids, with the intention of mapping the exact locations of all bushes. As well as being of inherent scientific interest, the information collected will have direct relevance to the planning of dune scrub management.

Photographs of all the rare Sefton Coast hybrid willows can be viewed on the web-site www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk.

Reference

Halliday, G. (1997). A Flora of Cumbria. Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster.

Tables

Table 1. Distribution of rare hybrid willows according to BSBI Vascular Plant Atlas Update Project.

TaxonParentagePost-1987 hectads in Br. IslesSefton Coast hectads
S. x friesianaS. repens x S. viminalis143
S. x donianaS. repens x S. purpurea62
S. x angusensisS. repens x S. viminalis x S. cinerea103
S. x subsericeaS. repens x S. cinerea162

Author: Dr Phil Smith, November 2007.