The Stinking Hawksbeard Story

, 13 April 2018
The Stinking Hawksbeard Story

In the 1980s the Dandelion like Stinking Hawksbeard became extinct in Britain. English Nature included it in the Species Recovery Programme and carried out a series of re-introductions to suitable sites within the plant's known former range. Plants were propagated from seed obtained from Cambridge University. Plants re-introduced at the Dungeness site in 1992 initially thrived, but the population then declined to extinction by 2002 as a result of the overgrowth of other vegetation. In 2000 37 plants were re-introduced to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and further plants were introduced in 2002, but the small protective cages did not prevent rabbits from eating most flowers. .

So in early 2005 the area was rabbit fenced and the plant has thrived ever since, reaching 3,000 plants in 2010, when counting stopped.

This rabbit fencing has also benefited other rare shingle plants including Least Lettuce, Red Hempnettle and Sea Pea. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve now has 15 fences protecting 2.5ha and the Stinking Hawksbeard continues to thrive, with some plants now growing outside of the fencing adjacent to the tarmac road - it flowers from mid-June to mid-July.

In April 2018 the Royal Mail produced the Reintroduced Species collection of stamps to celebrate the successful reintroduction of various flora and fauna to the UK – including the Osprey, Eurasian Beaver, Pool Frog, Sand Lizard, Large-blue Butterfly and Stinking Hawksbeard (using images from the Rye Harbour population).