East Sussex council accused of damaging rare species

Spiked Rampion only grows in East Sussex ENGSUS00120131223133507
Spiked Rampion only grows in East Sussex ENGSUS00120131223133507

East Sussex county council contractors have been accused of damaging an internationally-important habitat for the second year running.

The Species Recovery Trust claims the ‘most important site’ for Spiked Rampion has been damaged threatening its survival.

The plant only occurs in a handful of sites in East Sussex, growing nowhere else in the UK.

“Its stronghold is on a quiet road verge site, where it is supposedly protected by East Sussex County Council as part of their protected road verge programme,” said trust director Dominic Price.

“During the summer of 2015, a section of the site was mowed while the plants were still in flower, meaning some of the plants were unable to set seed for the following year.

“Detailed negotiations were held between the Species Recovery Trust and the council to make council staff aware of the importance of the site, and assurances were made that this damage would not be repeated.

“Members of the Rampion steering group, a committee of conservation experts from the Species Recovery Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Kew Gardens and the Forestry Commission, visited this site this spring and found that a large ditch had been dug through another section of the same site.”

The Species Recovery Trust said it had now confirmed the damage was again caused by council contractors.

“The damage caused by these two reckless acts is hard to quantify at this stage, but we are deeply worried about the longer-term effects on this population,” said Mr Price.

“This road verge site has the highest numbers of this plant seen anywhere in the world, a similar type of Spiked Rampion occurs on the continent but is now recognised as a different variant of the English plant, and Spiked Rampion is protected by law, so to see it damaged two years in a row is completely unacceptable.”

Spiked Rampion is also known as the Rapunzel plant, after its appearance in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale.

Rapunzel’s mother had a terrible craving for the plant and so her husband was forced to steal one from an enchantress, who retaliated by taking their daughter.

However, anyone craving a Spiked Rampion today would struggle even to find one, as it is so rare in the wild.

It is protected by law against intentional uprooting or damage.

East Sussex County Council has been contacted for comment.

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