Caroline Lucas To Champion Threatened Wild Flower

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Caroline Lucas MP

* Plantlife welcomes Lucas as Species Champion for round-headed rampion

* Lucas pledges to support iconic 'Pride of Sussex' flower of the South Downs

* Remarkable blue wildflower now nationally scarce

* 80% of lowland chalk grassland has been lost since WWII


Plantlife is delighted to welcome Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, as a Species Champion.

Lucas will act as species champion for round-headed rampion (Phyteuma orbiculare), a sharp-blue wildflower known as the 'Pride of Sussex'. Round-headed rampion, the county flower of Sussex, only grows on chalk downland.

The Species Champions Project partners Members of Parliament from England with wildlife organisations to bring political support to the protection and promotion of threatened wildlife.

The round-headed rampion is confined to southern England and is more common on the South Downs than anywhere else in the UK. Its future depends on the environmentally-sustainable and sensitive management of its habitat – lowland chalk grassland. Since World War II, the country has lost around 80% of grasslands like these. In the South Downs they now cover just 4% of the National Park’s area and many of these sites are too small to be resilient to change. Chalk grassland is particularly threatened by fragmentation, as well as farming practices, air pollution, development and under-management. Round-headed rampion is currently recorded in just forty 10km squares and has been lost from nearly 30% of the 10km squares where it once grew. It is now classified as being ‘nationally scarce’.

Caroline Lucas MP said: "The sight of a round-headed rampion is one of the joys of a walk on the South Downs in summer. I am proud to champion such a beautiful flower which never ceases to amaze; each head may initially appear to be a single bloom but is actually a collection of smaller ones, huddled together."

"The steady decline of round-headed rampion is, sadly, part of a wider problem of widespread species decline in the UK. Only if we take action to arrest our alarming species and habitat decline will our children and grandchildren be able to enjoy wildflowers and nature like we were able to as children. That is why, alongside other Species Champion MPs, I am proud to stand up for round-headed rampion and all the other threatened species that so enrich our natural environment."

Marian Spain, Plantlife CEO, commented: "I’m delighted that Caroline is championing one of Sussex’s best loved wildflowers. It is vital that we restore and protect chalk grassland, home to the round-headed rampion and so many other wonderful flowering plants. Such precious grassland can support 40 species of flowering plants in just one square metre. A huge diversity of bees, butterflies, birds and other animals depend on these plants, creating a vibrant and colourful ecosystem. We need the support of our politicians as well as the work of bodies like Plantlife, the South Downs National Park Authority and dedicated landowners and communities to really make a difference for nature."

In the last century, 97% of species-rich grassland has been destroyed, mostly due to ploughing, use of fertilisers and overgrazing, as well as atmospheric nitrogen deposition. While many remaining areas of chalk grassland are protected as SSSIs, large areas are still unprotected, even within National Parks, and are at risk from development, ploughing, mismanagement or neglect.

Under the project, over 40 iconic and threatened English species have been ‘adopted’ by Members of Parliament. The initiative is run by a coalition of seven nature NGOs - Plantlife, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, and Bat Conservation Trust.

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