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Tiny Petalwort

Petalwort, a miniscule plant that looks like a tiny lettuce only 2mm across is a highly protected type of liverwort. It has long made its home at Dawlish Warren, but with climate change and increasing numbers of visitors, its existence is under severe threat.

To preserve the plant at the popular tourism destination, South East Devon Wildlife (a tri-council partnership) monitors its growth at the site. This monitoring highlighted the plant’s threat of extinction so Teighbridge District Council obtained grant funding for a specialist to move the plant to a safer place at Dawlish Warren.

Ecologist Catriona Neil of Spalding Associates, said:

“On behalf of the site manager, Teignbridge District Council, I obtained a conservation licence from Natural England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to relocate this protected species. This also required a Habitat Regulations Assessment. 

“I moved small sections of turf where the plants could be seen and replanted these in areas less likely to be submerged by seawater. They will also have just the right amount of footfall pressure on them that keeps more competitive plants from crowding it out”. 

Stephen Edwards, Teignbridge District Council’s Ranger at Dawlish Warren, said:

“Almost 600 different types of flowering plants have been recorded at Dawlish Warren. The high number of species in such a small area is partly due to the richness of habitat found on the Nature Reserve. Many of the Warren's special plants are very small because they are more likely to survive that way due to the poor soil, dry summers, rabbit grazing and trampling from people walking there.

“With our changing climate, it’s likely that the sand dunes could shift more frequently. If this happens, areas where petalwort flourished could become submerged by seawater. So to preserve the plants, they have been transplanted in small turf sections to more suitable locations.

“These plants are extremely vulnerable so it’s essential that visitors do not light barbeques or fires anywhere at Dawlish Warren – including the beach, the dunes or anywhere at all on the Nature Reserve.”

To find out where you can go to enjoy a barbeque safely, visit BBQs | South East Devon Wildlife