Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 12:18 UK

Extinct wild plant re-introduced

Stinking Hawk's-Beard
The Stinking Hawk's-Beard became extinct in the wild in Britain in 1980

A plant that has been extinct in Britain for nearly 30 years has been successfully re-introduced in Sussex.

The stinking hawk's-beard, which resembles a dandelion and smells of bitter almonds, is now growing in large numbers at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

It was introduced to the area in 2000 from seeds that were collected before it became extinct in the wild.

The last wild stinking hawk's-beard colony was recorded in Dungeness in Kent in 1980.

East Sussex County Council, which runs the nature reserve, said the plant had thrived since they had put a rabbit proof fence around the colonies.

'Seedling-to-flower'

Barry Yates, of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, said: "Brian Banks of Swift Ecology has been studying the land at Rye Harbour fairly intensively over the past four years, visiting the shingle each month, marking the plants and, following their survival from seedling to flower over the year.

"The big discovery has been the significance of rabbit grazing, which is also affecting other rare plant species at Rye Harbour.

"Since a rabbit-proof fence was put around plants numbers have increased from 10 plants, four years ago, to 1035 this year."

In 1992 work began to reintroduce the plant at Dungeness but this was described as being a "limited success".

Eight years later Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was one of a number of areas selected for new trials.

The county council said this year was the first time the number of plants at Rye had gone into four figures and there had had also been a modest increase in numbers at other sites, including RSPB's Dungeness reserve and a location in Northiam.

Jane Sears, RSPB's biodiversity projects Officer, said: "Re-introductions need a lot of time and effort but with patience and a good knowledge-base we can make a big difference in saving species that would otherwise be lost.

"The challenge now is to get the plant to spread into new areas."



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