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Conservation of rare Brecks flora gathers pace

It has been another successful year for our dedicated volunteers who are helping to monitor plant populations in the Brecks.

Four people are kneeling on a brown dry ground surrounding a square on the ground

Members of the Breckland Flora Group created records for 35 of the Brecks special species in 2022/23 – including a second site for an endangered plant.  

Although the summer heat made survey conditions difficult, 45 group members took the time to count, map and photograph plants. Together, they created records for: 

  • 35 of the Brecks special species (compared with 34 in 2021/22) at 
  • 69 sites (compared with 74 the previous year). 


Their findings

After receiving training and support from Plantlife, the group once again collected superb quality data during the year. 

Three plants of Field Wormwood Artemisia campestris were found in Beck Row, making it the fourth native site for this priority species in the UK. Excitingly, a second site in Thetford was confirmed for Creeping Marshwort, Helosciadium repens, which has almost certainly spread from the site found upstream in 2020. This is a significant discovery, as this endangered species is only found at three locations across the country.

A woman wearing a white and black checked shirt is kneeling on the ground investigating a square on the ground

Other highlights included:  

  • the rediscovery of Silene conica at West Harling; 
  • Apera interrupta at historical sites at Warren Farm, Beachamwell; 
  • a record size population of Epipactis phyllanthes at Santon West; 
  • a new population of Petrorhagia prolifera at Center Parcs; and 
  • the first recording of Carex ericetorum at Grime’s Graves since 2010, and only the ninth since 1950.  

Making use of the data

The group’s partnership with Plantlife, Natural England and Forestry England helps to maximise its influence. Thanks to its members, we were able to send 55 survey reports to landowners. As well as showing the importance of the species on their land, these reports also demonstrated the positive impact their management techniques are having. 

The 2022/23 data showed a dwindling population of Spanish catchfly on Forestry England land at West Harling. As a result, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is turfing strip plots to create bare ground which the plant can hopefully colonise onto.

Further north in Ickburgh, records of Tower Mustard Arabis glabra on a road verge have led to its designation as a Roadside Nature Reserve. As a result, the site will now be managed for its benefit. 

 A working group has also been set up to focus on the conservation of Spring Speedwell Veronica verna. Trials to investigate the habitat requirements of this rare species are now taking place at 9 sites. By comparing germination and survival to fruiting rates, we hope to discover more about how best to support populations in the future.

More ‘Protect and Restore’ Projects

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Rachel Murphy standing in a field filling in a paper form using a yellow pencil in her hands

Monitor our habitats with the help of citizen scientists

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Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves
Two person working on a log, one is shaving the wood log and the other holding the log in the woodland.

Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves

We have enhanced habitats at Greena Moor, our culm grassland nature reserve in north Cornwall, for the benefit of three critical species.

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A tall grass plant is in the foreground and a cool grassy dunescape is in the background

Restoring dynamic dunescapes at Braunton Burrows

Plantlife has continued to lead the biggest sand dune restoration works ever attempted in the UK, with impressive results.