1 Introduction The Biodiversity Audit of North West England (1999) lists 474 taxa of vascular plants of “conservation importance”, 145 of which occur on the Sefton Coast. Whittling these down to a manageable number for Species Action Plans has been a daunting task. Two, Dune Helleborine and Isle of Man Cabbage, are listed as UK… Read More »
1. Current Status 1.1 European and National 1.1.1 Coastal sand dunes are a declining and threatened habitat throughout Europe and the UK, particularly fixed dune and dune heath types. Their current status across Europe is “unfavourable declining”. 1.1.2 The total area of coastal sand dune in the UK is 54,500 ha: 11,897 ha in England;… Read More »
In North Merseyside the Dune Helleborine is confined to the Sefton Coast sanddunes. Travis’s Flora of South Lancashire (1963) describes it as “Occasional, locally common … in open, moist hollows in the dunes at the edge of pine plantations”. This is still the case. P.S. Gateley recorded 870 spikes in 1988 and 1911 in 1992 during partial surveys of the dune system. The largest numbers of plants in both years were found in Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR, the northern and southern extremities of the dune system having few plants. Gateley found that 21% of spikes occurred in pine plantations, while 53% were associated with Creeping Willow Salix repens. The plant avoided Marram Ammophila arenaria-dominated dunes and heavily vegetated fixed-dune pastures but seemed well adapted to disturbance, being often found in areas cleared of conifers, along fence
lines and the edges of footpaths. A large population is now known to occur in the frontal woodlands of Ainsdale NNR. Over 200 spikes were counted in 2007 in the Lifeboat Road woodlands. Small additional colonies have been located at Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve and Altcar Rifle Range.
English Nature carried out a survey of Dune and Green-flowered Helleborine in Ainsdale NNR in 2002 at 130 randomly generated points, but statistical problems associated with small sample sizes prevented rigorous analysis of the results.
Early Sand-grass is confined to the Sefton Coast in north Merseyside. It was first discovered by D.P. Earl and J. Buckley-Earl in April 1996, growing in a small area of dunes on the west side of Southport Marine Lake. The plant’s distribution was mapped by P.H. Smith on 12th April 1999 when it was found to be dominant in many patches over a distance of about 100m, some of the patches being up to 10m in diameter but many much smaller. Most of the population was associated with the south to south-east facing slope of a low (3m-high) dune ridge. Some small patches were also found on a plateau area to the west of the ridge. All patches of Early Sandgrass were in poorly vegetated areas with a high proportion of bare sand, often on the
fringes of sandy, informal footpaths. The most abundant of 16 associated plants were Kidney Vetch, Little Mouse-ear and Common Whitlow-grass. A repeat survey in 2004 showed the plant’s area had increased by 47% to 2158m2. Regular visits from 2005 to 2007 suggest the grass is doing well and continuing to spread.