Grey mouse ear (Cerastium brachypetalum)

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Grey mouse ear in flower
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Grey mouse ear fact file

Grey mouse ear description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderCaryophyllales
FamilyCaryophyllaceae
GenusCerastium (3)

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).

Size
Height: up to 10-15 cm
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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).

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Grey mouse ear range

In the UK, this species is known from Bedfordshire and at 6 sites in west Kent (1). It also occurs in western, southern and central Europe and in France on the Channel coast (1).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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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).

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Grey mouse ear status

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain (1).

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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).

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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).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more on Plantlife, the wild plant charity see:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk/

For more on Plantlife's Back from the Brink Campaign see:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/conservation_projects/back_from_the_brink/

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Authentication

Information jointly authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, and Plantlife.

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Glossary

Annual
Lives or grows for just one year.
Calcareous
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary ( November 2002)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition.
  3. Pers. observation from images.
  4. Rich, T. C. G. (2002) Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Grey mouse ear in flower  
Grey mouse ear in flower

© John Mason / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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