Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pinks on the brink

A few evenings back (see blog here) I visited a verge on the A449 near Hawford (southbound, Grid Ref. SO 84466045), to see if I could locate Worcestershire's only colony of Deptford pinks (Dianthus armeria). I couldn't.

I returned the following morning, and to my delight I found them, almost immediately, their cerise petals glowing bright in the rank vegetation on the bank. (I need to say here that my photos do not do these lovely flowers justice. The camera failed to capture their vibrancy and vividness.)

The reason I failed to find pinks the previous evening, is because they close their petals at dusk. Pinks exhibit nyctinasty (nyct meaning night, nastic meaning movement in response to a stimulus). In effect, they have an internal clock, regulated by light, via cellular light responsive chemicals; phytochromes. Closing at night when pollinators are inactive, may be an adaptation to protect costly blooms from damage by herbivores, and/or from frost and damp.  

Pinks have been on a slippery slope of decline for many decades and are now protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. But is this enough? 
On this verge I found 19 plants in flower, 11 rosettes (which I'm pretty sure were pinks) and, hmm, at least 2 plants damaged by cutting.

The site was not marked by signs or bollards; I don't mean for the public but for grass-cutting contractors. How else would they know this is a sensitive stretch of verge?
A449 verge showing scrub
The top of the verge was rather scrubby and overgrown; not ideal pink habitat. Pinks are sensitive to shading and competition (see Plantlife briefing sheet here). The lower part had been cut recently. The cut alone was concerning, but it also appeared the skid had been dragged over the site causing further damage; in some cases right next to the pinks.
Skid damage on the verge and (below) right next to the pinks
Pinks do benefit from some site disturbance, but not during flowering.

So what do pinks want? Well, removal of the scrub for a start, to reduce shading. The bank needs regular cutting, between September and April. And some planned soil disurbance over winter would also be beneficial. Not very complex and these lovely flowers are worth a bit of care I think.
While I was there I saw a hoverfly visiting a flower. 
I'd parked in Hawford, and before going home, I popped to see a 16th century dovecote in the village (managed by the National Trust).
I believe Worcestershire County Council is now responsible for management of this stretch of verge. I've emailed them to draw the verge to their attention. I've copied my email Plantlife. I'll post an update when I hear anything.
I found the pinks abominably hard to photograph. Shading, wind, gusts from traffic and my unfamiliarity with a new camera had me really frustrated. I've just been given a Fuji Finepix S2950, having graduated from my brilliant little Panasonic Lumix point & shoot. I'm struggling with the macro and super macro functions on the Finepix as the camera doesn't seem to want to focus on the X in the middle of the screen. Some of the photos here were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 4500 (on loan), a wonderful camera, but with no anti-shake, so in my tremulous hands is quite a liability!

1 comment:

  1. Nowt wrong with those pictures!
    Every new camera takes a while to break in.... just enjoy it.