Tuesday 21 May
Grey mouse ear (Cerastium brachypetalum)
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Grey mouse ear fact file
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Grey mouse ear description
This endangered plant was first discovered in Great Britain in 1947 (1). It is pale green to grey in colour and is covered in fairly long, downy hairs. The small leaves grow in pairs that are positioned oppositely on the stem. The flowers are small and white; the specific name brachypetalum derives from the Greek brakhys, meaning short and petalum which means petal (2).
- Height: up to 10-15 cm
Grey mouse ear biology
This winter annual germinates in October/ November and flowers in April and May. The flowers self-pollinate, and seed is set after May (1). It seems that this species has particularly poor dispersal abilities, as plants appear repeatedly in the same place as in previous years (1). The seeds require open ground in which to germinate and grow; this plant cannot compete with dense grass or vegetation (4).Top
Grey mouse ear rangeTop
Grey mouse ear habitat
Inhabits open habitats on old calcareous grassland, as well as railway banks and cuttings (1). The soils are often shallow and suffer from droughts in the summer, which keeps competing vegetation in check (4). In Bedfordshire the plant typically grows on anthills on two railway banks that face to the west (1). In Europe it occurs on walls, rocky limestone outcrops and ledges (4).Top
Grey mouse ear status
Classified as Endangered in Great Britain (1).Top
Grey mouse ear threats
One of the six UK sites for this species was destroyed during construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Seeds and soil from this site were transferred to a new site and are growing well (4).Top
Grey mouse ear conservation
Grey mouse-ear is one of the species targeted by Plantlife's 'Back From the Brink' campaign. Controlled burning, used as a conservation management tool at the Bedfordshire site has had promising results (1).Top
Find out more
For more on Plantlife, the wild plant charity see:
For more on Plantlife's Back from the Brink Campaign see:
Information jointly authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, and Plantlife.Top
- Lives or grows for just one year.
- Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary ( November 2002)
- Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition.
- Pers. observation from images.
- Rich, T. C. G. (2002) Pers. comm.
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