Rare find in Northamptonshire

Dwarf mouse-ear, Cerastium pumilum by Tony Vials

Last year at Nene Wetlands a dwarf mouse-ear, thought to be extinct, was discovered - but almost lost again . . .

The dwarf mouse-ear, Cerastium pumilum, is a herb belonging to the Cariophyllaceae familiy. A nationally scarce species, the plant was considered extinct in Northamptonshire since 1965 – until last year, when local amateur botanist Tony Vials, who volunteers with the Trust, made an extremely rare find at Nene Wetlands nature reserve.
However, in August 2017, due to ongoing improvement work on some of the reserve's paths, the plants were unintentionally covered in soil. Once realised, immediate action was taken to save the plant, and the area where the soil had been placed was scraped with extreme care with a digger, trying to expose the ground where around 30 plants had grown earlier in the season.
Dwarf mouse-ear flowers in mid April for a few weeks - its annual biology means that any plant remains “vanish” soon after it has flowered and set seed. Therefore, last August it wasn't possible to predict if the plants would recover, so the area was fenced to give it the best possible protection.
In excellent news, the flowering plant re-emerged in mid April this year, with around 15 plants which have all flowered in recent weeks, proving the very careful rescue, protection and monitoring a success.
Plants in the Cerastium genus are known for their pharmacological properties, including antiseptic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. The wider Cariophyllaceae family have been attributed with anticancer, antibacterial and brain-protective properties: emphasising the message of how vital all species are – especially those which can be of use for medical research.
The Trust is very grateful to have the invaluable expert botanical knowledge which Tony Vials brings as a volunteer.