A rare member of an otherwise familiar group of plants, shore dock has greyish green leaves and tiny green or reddish-brown flowers, appearing between June and August, in whorls that spread out up the stem.
Shore dock has been found growing in isolation on the strand line, and in perennial communities at the foot of cliffs. However, it occurs only where a constant source of freshwater (running or still) is available. It is most commonly found growing by the side of streams entering beaches, and on soft-rock cliffs with fresh water seeps. In this environment, shore dock is vulnerable to bad weather, and populations are known to fluctuate according to the severity of winter storms.
Shore dock (Rumex rupestris) is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is also fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act as amended, and EC Habitats Directive Annex 11(b) and 1V(b).
Visitor pressure, coastal defence, and the construction on beaches of boat-ramps have damaged many of the shore dock's former sites. Another threat comes from climate change and the prospect of increasingly stormy seas and sea level rise. The increase in the number of invasive plants, particularly the succulent pink-flowered Hottentot fig Carpobrotus edulis from southern Africa, also poses a problem.
The shore dock is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UK BAP), and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. Many of the UK sites for this plant are owned and managed by conservation bodies. Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity, have added shore dock to their 'Back from the Brink' programme. A number of ways of restoring the plant's fortunes are currently being explored, including a re-introduction project on three sites in Devon and Cornwall.
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