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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Botanists rediscover mountain plant
The Snowdonia Hawkweed
The Snowdonia Hawkweed was thought to be extinct
A rare plant which was rediscovered in north Wales after an absence of almost 50 years is to receive the protection of scientists at the national botanical garden.

The Snowdonia Hawkweed has been described as the Welsh Dodo because botanists thought it had become extinct from the slopes of the country's highest peak.


This is as exciting as finding a new tree in the tropics

Professor Charles Stirton

It was thought to have fallen victim to the thousands of sheep, which are left to roam high in the area's hills.

But the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 appears to have given it a chance for a new lease of life and botanists at the National Botanic Garden of Wales are determined to help it flourish.

They have taken delivery of a specimen which was seen on a nature reserve where sheep are now no longer allowed to graze.

It may be the only spot in the world where the flower grows as it struggles with the pressures facing all wild flowers: the erosion of habitat through over-grazing, deforestation, over-collection and climate change.

Professor Charles Stirton
Professor Stirton: Excited at discovery

At the Carmarthenshire-based botanic garden, seeds from the plant are to be collected and grown at the site's glasshouses so that some day it can be re-introduced to the wild in greater numbers.

Professor Charles Stirton, director of the gardens, said: "We often hear of extinctions in the tropical rainforest and other parts of the world but we have a very unique flora in this part.

"We don't have a vast number of species, but many of what we do have are restricted to mountain tops and are very, very rare.

"This is as exciting as finding a new tree in the tropics.

"It is quite interesting that the recent discovery has come a year after we've had foot-and-mouth and there has been reduced grazing. So there is a correlation."

The Snowdonia Hawkweed
Hawkweed seeds are to be propagated

This break for the Snowdonia Hawkweed has come as Wales's flora faces what could be its greatest challenge in centuries.

In March, this year the Woodland Trust claimed that global warming could pose a serious threat to Wales's woodland.

It said research suggested that the Welsh oak could disappear together, along with bluebells and other woodland plants and animals.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Tim Jones
"The re-discovery of the Snowdonia hawkweed has caused a stir in some circles"
See also:

16 Aug 01 | Wales
16 Jul 02 | Wales
14 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
18 Jun 00 | Science/Nature
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