Yellow marsh saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus)
|Size||Height: up to 350 mm|
Protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and listed in Appendix 1 of the Bern Convention and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive.
Yellow marsh saxifrage is a tufted, hairy plant, with stems of a reddish-brown. The leaves are spear-shaped and concentrated around the lower half of the stem. The flowers are bright yellow, sometimes showing small red spots.
Found throughout much of Europe, the yellow marsh saxifrage is threatened across much of its range. Once found in 13 counties in Britain, it is now restricted to some 20 sites, most of them in the north Pennine region of England.
This is a plant of very particular requirements and needs a 'base-rich' soil, that is, soil fed by calcareous flushes of water. This type of habitat is scarce.
Yellow marsh saxifrage flowers in July to September.
This species is a victim of over-grazing, often loosing its flowers before they can produce seeds, and the effects of agricultural improvement.
The yellow marsh saxifrage is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UKBAPs), and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). Recent surveys of this plant have suggested that known populations may have been under estimated through the grazing off of flowers heads. This makes it hard to recognise the plant in the field.
It is realised, however, that upland over-grazing has to be controlled if this species is to have a future in the UK and, as a precautionary measure, seeds have been collected and stored in the Millennium Seed Bank by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Some of these seeds will be propagated and planted back in the wild on suitable sites as part of a re-introduction programme.
As the yellow marsh saxifrage is threatened throughout its range, an important aspect of the work to conserve it has been co-operation with European conservation groups, to find out more about its biology.
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