‘Extinct’ plant rediscovered in Peak District

A botanist in Derbyshire was stunned to come across a rare plant thought to be extinct

8th September 2017
Rhodri Thomas of Peak District National Park with leek-cultured hawkweed

Dr Tim Rich was collecting seeds for Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank when he noticed the leek-coloured hawkwood growing on the banks of the Monsal Trail, in Chee Dale. The perennial plant was in bloom; its flowers are yellow, similar to a dandelion but smaller.

The plant gets its name because its leaves are the same chalky-green as the vegetable, leek.

Leek-coloured Hawkweed
Leek-coloured Hawkweed was thought to be extinct ©Peak District National Park Authority, photographer: Alex Hyde

Dr Rich said: “It has not been seen in Derbyshire for over 60 years and is thought to have died out at its only other known world site in Staffordshire a few years ago, so I was very, very pleased.”

Two groups, 62 plants in total, were found on sites owned by the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Julia Gow of the latter said: “The rarity and particular biological requirements of this plant shows just how vital Nature Reserves are for providing places for wildlife and nature conservation – in this case, the entire world population!”

Rhodri Thomas of Peak District National Park, said: “We are delighted with the discovery … it’s one of the best indications we could ask for to show that the work we do to look after the trail side verges and the embankments is good for wildlife. Our trail rangers and volunteers regularly clear these areas of invasive hawthorn and young trees to allow wildflowers and plants to thrive.”

Peak District National Park leek-cultured hawkweed
Rhodri Thomas of Peak District National Park examines the leek-cultured hawkweed though to have been extinct ©Peak District National Park Authority, photographer: Alex Hyde

To help safeguard the future of leek-cultured hawkweed (botanical name Hieracium subprasinifolium), seed has been collected as part of Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seedbank Partnership.

Find out more about the Peak District National Park and more wildlife stories.

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