Surveying Grass Of Parnassus


This small and seemingly insignificant flower species is just one of the many reasons that gives our wild spaces such great importance.

 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining my ranger team to assist in a survey of the Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris).



The Grass of Parnassus despite its name isn’t a grass. It is actually a wildflower also known as ‘Bog-Star’, that displays delicate, white, oval, veined petals, that cup themselves around 5 clusters of vibrant yellow stamens. The flowers exist on the tip of a single bare stem which is decorated in small heart shaped leaves at the base. Their seed pods are equally as beautiful resembling a tiny beehives appearance. They are found on wet moors and marshes, making the reduction of wetland habitats a big problem for this species. It is now on the decline as a result of changes in land use such as land drainage.

Sutton park (a SSSI nature reserve; Site of Specific Scientific Interest) is currently the only location for the Grass of Parnassus within the west midlands. The presence of the cattle within the wet mire habitats graze out the larger more vigorous plant species and prevent the succession into woodland habitats. This also ensures that soil enrichment is kept to a minimum, thus combined with the former, provide the conditions in which the plant needs to survive.


What’s interesting is that the plant goes into seed a month later than those recorded on any other site. We were conducting a simple survey to record the number of seed pods present for comparison with the previous year’s records. This year showed a healthy increase in the number of pods present; 170 which was a respectable increase of the previous year. Its scarcity within the West Midlands of course places it highly amongst the many species Sutton park is trying to preserve and restore to a healthier state.

This small and seemingly insignificant flower species is just one of the many reasons that gives our wild spaces such great importance. Hidden in pockets amongst modern, industrial civilisation is hope of a preserved wild future.


Meg x

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