Making room for alpine plants in the Brecon Beacons

Colin Cheesman

Colin Cheesman

Head of Plantlife Cymru

14th February 2017

The Brecon Beacons are known for their majestic peaks, but did you know the sweeping slopes are important habitats for rare plants?

A collection of 29 cliff faces and scree slopes have been identified as an Important Plant Area (IPA) and are home to rare hawkweeds, whitebeams and other alpine gems such as purple saxifrage.

Many of these cliff and scree slopes can also contain invasive non-native plants which can crowd out the native flora by reducing the light and space. Species such as cotoneaster, cherry laurel and holm oak have been recorded in the area and have begun to affect the biodiversity.

Thanks to funding from the Brecon Beacons Trust and the Wales Government, we have been able to survey 22 of the sites within the IPA in 2016 and the results have just come in. Thankfully non-native species were only found in five sites and most of these are individual plants that can easily be controlled. However, one site at Darren Fawr, north of Merthyr Tydfil, is very badly infested with cotoneaster. Darren Fawr is also a difficult site as much of it is unstable scree and small quarries which are hard to access.

Over the next few months we will be applying for funding to remove the invasive plants on all the five sites where they were found. The work needed on Darren Fawr could take between 3 – 5 years to complete but making a start now means native plants should begin to find a stronger foothold.