Plant hunter’s new discovery named after Sir David Attenborough

A new species of wild flower, Hieracium attenboroughianum, Attenborough’s Hawkweed, which was found a decade ago in the central Brecon Beacons in South Wales has been named in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

Hieracium attenboroughianum ( Attenborough’s Hawkweed) flowers in the summer and can be found on a rocky ledge in the central Brecon Beacons.  Picture credit: Tim Tic

Hieracium attenboroughianum (Attenborough’s Hawkweed) flowers in the summer and can be found on a rocky ledge in the central Brecon Beacons. Picture credit: Tim Rich

This is the first time that a new plant species found in the UK has been named after the world famous naturalist and TV presenter.

Dr Tim Rich, the plant taxonomist who named the new species, said “Finding a new species is a really exciting moment and something that you dream of as a naturalist.

“I decided to name this special little plant found in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons after David Attenborough as he inspired me to study ecology when I was 17.

“This is a personal thank you for the years of fascination he has given me going to different places to search for new things.”

The Attenborough Hawkweed is one of a group of closely related plants which belong to the daisy family and has probably evolved in the Brecon Beacons since the last ice age. The hawkweeds are close relatives of dandelions and have similar looking flowers.

Attenborough’s Hawkweed occurs on rocky ledges on Cribyn, one of three spectacular peaks of the central Brecon Beacons which belong to the National Trust.

In late June/early July the hawkweed colours the rocks yellow with its delicate dandelion like flowers and can be easily seen from the main path up to Cribyn.

Joe Daggett, National Trust Countryside Manager, said: “It is amazing to think that this is the only place in the world where this plant occurs and that the evolution of a species can occur at such a local level.

“The inaccessible rocks where it’s found should ensure its continued survival into the future.”

The new plant was first studied in 2004 when Joe Daggett, Graham Motley, Tim Rich and Paul Smith found it whilst looking for the rare Summit Hawkweed, which was found on the adjacent Pen-y-fan.

More than 300 plants of the Attenborough’s Hawkweed were found flowering profusely on the rocky ledges, safe from the sheep which graze the mountains. It took another ten years of study and comparison with related species to be sure it was new.

Commenting on the naming of the Hawkweed after him, Sir David Attenborough, said: “I am thrilled that my name has been given to the delightful new species of hawkweed discovered in the Brecon Beacons.

“Bestowing a name on a new species is surely one of the greatest of biological compliments and I am truly grateful. It is an added joy that Hieracium attenboroughianum should be so beautiful and live in such a lovely part of the country.”

David Attenborough has eleven plants and animals named after him, including a giant pitcher plant from the Philippines and an Indonesian beetle. Most recently he has had a plant genus named after him, identified by a team of researchers in Gabon, Africa. However Attenborough’s Hawkweed is the only living British species that has his name.

New wave of proposed Marine Conservation Zones don’t go far enough

The Government has today launched a three month consultation on the next tranche of Marine Conservation Zones around the coast of England. Below is a joint response to the announcement from the National Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.

Second round of Marine Conservation Zone designation will leave English waters woefully under protected

Conservation charities say promised network of protection is not even close as vital sites don’t even get to public consultation

The UK’s leading marine charity says it is hugely disappointed that, in the same week the Government has been warned how England’s declining natural environment is harming the economy, it has failed to deliver on promises to better protect English seas.

37 sites had been proposed to go forward to a second public consultation on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), all identified by Government’s scientific advisers as vital to plugging “major gaps” that currently exist in the development of a UK network.

However, only 23 sites have made the final list when the consultation for potential new MCZs was launched on Friday 30th January. While MCS is keen that members of the public air their views to ensure that these sites become a reality, the charity has real concerns that English seas will not contribute a network of sites that we can be proud of in future.

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Blakeney seals its place in the record books

Blakeney Point, which is managed by the National Trust, on the North Norfolk coast has shot to number one as the largest breeding site for grey seals in England.

A seal pup born at Blakeney Point this winter. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward

 

The number of grey seals born on this beautiful stretch of Norfolk coastline has increased one hundredfold in just 14 years, when the first 25 pups were born on the spit.

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A review of 2014: the year of the biting fly

Extreme weather in 2014 created an unpredictable rollercoaster of a year for our beleaguered wildlife and saw a raft of migrant species visiting our shores, say experts at the National Trust in their annual wildlife and weather round-up.

As a result of the warm, often wet summer, this year’s wildlife winners include biting flies, slugs and snails. More positively, many resident birds, mammals and amphibians also had good breeding seasons, although the picture is patchy and localised.

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

The year, however, will be most remembered for the winter storms in January and February; indicating the challenges that the natural world could face with the growing extremes of weather some of which may be caused by climate change.

National Trust rangers looking after the 742 miles of coastline cared for by the charity across England, Wales and Northern Ireland witnessed several years’ worth of erosion, while inland many of the Trust’s gardens and parklands suffered their greatest tree losses in almost 30 years.

Little terns along the Norfolk coast at Blakeney had to nest in low areas as a result of severe tidal surges which changed the beach profile. High tides followed in mid-June and flooded the seabirds’ nests resulting in a very poor breeding season.

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Landscape that inspired Thomas Hardy acquired by the National Trust

More than 200 acres of the sort of wild and windswept heathland that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy, has been acquired by the National Trust. Slepe Heath in Dorset is the largest area of lowland heath that the Trust has acquired for more than a decade.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset's most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

The magical Slepe Heath in Dorset. A landscape that inspired Dorset’s most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. Credit: National Trust/Will Wilkinson.

As part of a conservation vision inspired by the landscapes featured in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Slepe Heath will connect the protected lowland heath of Hartland Moor, already looked after by the National Trust and Natural England, and the Arne reserve, owned by the RSPB.

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Hen harriers breeding in Peak District after 8-year gap

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District.  Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District. Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Five hen harrier chicks have successfully fledged on National Trust land in the Upper Derwent Valley – the first time hen harriers have bred successfully in the Peak District for eight years.

This a result of a wide partnership of people and organisations that have worked together to protect the birds and their nest as part of the National Trust’s High Peak Moors Vision for the area, which aims to restore birds of prey as part of a rich and healthy environment.

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A greener future – letter to the Daily Telegraph

Ten leading environmental and conservation NGO CEO’s signed the below letter that appeared in the Daily Telegraph today. This letter is about putting the Greener Britain agenda on that of all of the main political parties in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Sir,

Working together, the leading organisations from the environment and conservation sector have jointly developed seven goals for our next government that would have a profoundly positive impact on our country and the way we live.

From making an ambitious 2015 global climate change deal a key foreign policy priority to protecting vast areas of our oceans, both near and far from home; from an ambitious plan for nature’s recovery to making the energy efficiency of our homes an infrastructure priority; these and our other ideas are an exciting programme for the future.

Environmental policy making has been challenging in the last few years and the biggest challenge to achieving a greener Britain has been the hesitant approach of our political leaders. Some might feel that government can no longer tackle our biggest environmental problems; that we should leave international leadership to someone else; that our communities have become less interested in the nature around them and the quality of the green spaces they use.

We disagree. We know individuals and organisations with ambition and purpose have changed the world for the better, and that it will happen again. We also believe our political leaders can help us achieve it. It’s not certain that we will secure a global agreement to slow climate change next year in Paris. But a good agreement is more likely in 2015 than it has been for many years. It’s not certain that we will reverse the decline in British wildlife and countryside, but we are a country of nature-lovers, many millions of people are members and supporters of our organisations, and there is no shortage of ideas about how to ensure nature’s recovery.

We offer our political parties these ideas as they develop their general election manifestos, as a recipe for a greener, fairer, better Britain.

Yours faithfully,

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, CPRE
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
David Baldock, Executive Director, IEEP
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF UK
Helen Ghosh, Director General, National Trust
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Matthew Spencer, Director, Green Alliance
Stephen Joseph, Executive Director, CBT
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth