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THE INFLUENCE OF FARMING PRACTICE ON THE SURVIVAL AND FINAL EXTINCTION OF FINGERED SPEED WELL, VERONICA TRIPHYLLOS L., AT LAKENHEATH P . J . O . TRIST

T h e r e m a i n i n g native site of Fingered Speedwell, Veronica triphyllos L . , in the Suffolk B r e c k l a n d was an arable field of fine sand, south of the B r o o m R o a d , L a k e n h e a t h (v.c. 26), and part of the E l v e d e n E s t a t e . A m a p of 1370 ( M u n d a y , 1973) shows t h e field as part of the n o r t h e r n area of the South Shift of the M a n o r of L a k e n h e a t h , with the s o u t h e r n b o u n d a r y extending to the south of C a u d l e F a r m . T h e r e was very little change in mediaeval f a r m i n g practice d o w n to t h e 17th Century and it was not until 1801 that lucerne was introduced into t h e Breckland by L o r d A l b e m a r l e , who bought 4,000 acres which was to be t h e f o u n d a t i o n of the estate. Later it was e n h a n c e d by the Ist Earl of Iveagh w h o b o u g h t the p r o p e r t y in 1894 (Trist 1971). In 1969, the 2nd Earl was f a r m i n g 3,079 acres of lucerne. This crop, together with cereals, f o r m e d a p a r t n e r s h i p in t h e survival of V. triphyllos a n d , following a change in f a r m i n g policy in 1980, lucerne the m o t h e r - c r o p of V. triphyllos for many years on this B r o o m R o a d field, was a b a n d o n e d and it is now f e a r e d that the latter is extinct on this L a k e n h e a t h site. T h e r e m a i n i n g site (not a native Station) of V. triphyllos in Suffolk is on T u d d e n h a m Gallops ( G R 52/722.716) w h e r e Breck Speedwell, V. praecox All., Spring Speedwell, V. verna L. and V. triphyllos were sown in plots as a ' b a n k ' in 1967 by the late D r . A l e x W a t t . T h e seed was collected f r o m a native site n e a r T h e t f o r d . T h e a r e a is a h e a d l a n d strip of arable land on Park F a r m , Herringswell o w n e d by Robin U p t o n and currently leased to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The Field History of V. triphyllos Hind (1889) gives 'the earliest record 1724, Willisell': this date is incorrect. The first record f o r Suffolk was given in a letter f r o m Willisell to Ray (1670), 'in gravel pits two miles b e y o n d B a r t o n Mills': t h e reference is probably to gravel pits at G R 52/743.744 in t h e south-east c o r n e r of Mildenhall W a r r e n , now p l a n t e d to conifers. Hind gives 1875 for a site at Icklingham recorded by Sir J o h n C u l l u m , but this is a printing e r r o r for 1775: the specimen is in t h e BM. T h i s site can be identified with the Pilgrim's Path field in Icklingham from C u l l u m ' s description to Lightfoot of 5 M a y , 1775, which the latter a n n o t a t e d in a copy of R a y (1724), now in the Botany School Library at OXF. F r o m this a r e a t h e r e are more-or-less continuous records until it was last r e c o r d e d by A l e x W a t t on 29.4.1961 (in a letter to Eric D u f f e y in N C C . file 4 / S M / l , N o r w i c h ) . A n early account of t h e f r e q u e n c y of V. triphyllos is recorded in a letter of 28 A p r i l , 1802, in the Cullum Archives at the Bury St. E d m u n d ' s R e c o r d

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Nat. Soc. 25


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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 25

Office. It was from J. Velley of Bath to Thomas G. Cullum which relates 'I am obliged for the specimen of V. triphyllos which I had conceded had been so extremely scarce, that I had given it up in my mind'. The earliest record of a specimen from Lakenheath is in F o r s t e l s herbarium, BM: it is not dated but could be 1849, the year this herbarium was auctioned at Sotheby's. Another early Lakenheath record is given by Henslow and Skepper (1860). Hind (1889) gives 15 records for the Suffolk Breckland. The modern records only Start in 1950 with Mrs M. Southwell's list to A . S. Watt from 'south of Broom Road 52/725.824 and field behind Caudle Farm, abundant at 725.814'. In this area there are records between 1950-53 of V. triphyllos made by S. M. Walters, J. Raven and P. H. Oswald: but Marg Rutterford reported fewplantsin both 1954 and 1955, andsimilarly in 1956-57. The next report is from Rutterford in 1968 when 'plants are covered by a sand blow'. No plants were seen in 1970, but in 1972 he recovered flowering plants following a sand blow and he had a similar report for 1975. The tenuous hold of V. triphyllos attempting to repeat its annual reappearance is described in the final paragraphs. Distribution on the Broom Road Field. While V. triphyllos has over the years been found as Single plants in the north and centre of the field, its main area of distribution (based on 40 years observations by Rutterford) has been the north-east corner adjacent to the west boundary of the gorse-grass area of Lakenheath Warren. The area is defined as 135 paces from the north-west corner 52/725.823, to the west and adjacent with Broom Road, to a point opposite 55 Broom Rd. and defined (at present) by a 10 ft. hawthorn and then south by east on the line of an ancient furrow which formerly divided two areas but not enclosures. V. triphyllos has been seen on this furrow over a distance of 120m to the south. From the furrow, the 'boundary' of the area turned east to more-orless form a Square to the west of The Warren. In more favourable years in the early 1950s Rutterford recalls V. praecox and V. triphyllos along the entire length of the east side of the field as far as the Compound at 52/727.816. The Survival of V. triphyllos at Lakenheath. Trist (1979) refers to Rutterford's last sighting of the C o m Cockle (Agrostemma githago L.) at Lakenheath c. 1923 on long-strip holdings of a V2-I acre on Caudle Farm, Lakenheath, presumably a relic of the mediaeval system. It can be considered that V. triphyllos has survived as an arable weed on the South Shift since early manorial times. Over the centuries, the main crops on this poor light soil would have been rye and barley, while some wheat was introduced in the late 18th Century. Even with fallow breaks, the minimal droppings of animal dung and even the heavier dressings left by close folding, did not offset poor seed selection and inevitably cereal yields were light. Such a crop condition provided maximum light for weed growth and minimum competition with the sown crop. There was little change in the primitive cultivating equipment until the

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 25


THE SURVIVAL AND FINAL EXTINCTION OF FINGERED SPEEDWELL

63

latter half of the 19th Century which was followed by a very slow introduction of inorganic fertilisers. In fact it was not until the beginning of the 1939-45 war that tractor power and heavy farm equipment came into general use: and the real boost in cereal production followed the introduction of selective sprays, a greater use of inorganic fertilizers and improved seed varieties. This modern agricultural revolution can be dated from c. 1955, and from that time cereal yields gradually increased. T h e lack of light resulting from the increased crop density and herbicide sprays killed the weeds. The Influence of Modern Husbandry on Populations of V.

triphyllos.

Over the past 40 years Rutterford has taken note of the Performance of V. triphyllos and V. praecox on the Broom Road field. T h e writer has joined him for the past 15 years and observed the effect of crop rotation on these two speedwells. V. praecox was more of a survivor, but is now losing ground. If we follow the course of rotations it will be seen that deep cultivation and increased cereal yields have slowly caused the extinction of V. triphyllos. The influence of husbandry started with three successive years of spring barley f r o m 1974-76. Cultivations started with autumn ploughing and were completed with seeding by early February, which would have allowed germination of most of the seed of V. triphyllos after barley was sown, although some autumn-germinated plants would have been lost. In the spring of 1975, 'c. 50 plants of V. triphyllos i n o n e clump' were recorded by G . Crompton, L. Farrell and Rutterford. In 1976, immediately after barley was sown, lucerne was sown in the same bed, and this latter remained as a crop until 1979. Subsequently, in 1976, 13 V. triphyllos plants were found on the old n o r t h - s o u t h furrow by Crompton, Rutterford and R. Payne. In the following year there was no ground disturbance in the lucerne, other than a light dressing of muriate of potash, and Crompton and Rutterford recorded c. 60 plants which provided a 'bank' of seed. In consequence, 400-500 plants were seen by C r o m p t o n and Rutterford in 1978, 'about the line of the old furrow and particularly in areas where lucerne had failed and extending to 120m south of the large hawthorn opposite 55 Broom Road'. In 1979 the last of the silage crops were taken from the three year lucerne break: the land was ploughed in the autumn and sown to barley in the spring of 1980. If the cropping rotation had gone according to custom, barley would have again been sown in 1981, but in 1980, the Elveden Estate faced an enforced policy. At the time, the various farms of the Estate were milking a total of 1,850 cows and rearing 2,500 younger followers, for which about 4000 acres of lucerne were required for winter feeding. The European Economic Community declared that the E u r o p e a n milk-pool was over-flowing and drastic cuts were required in farm milk quotas. Those producers who were prepared to completely bow out of production were awarded compensation, but for the purposes of this paper, the loss of the Elveden milking herds meant the loss of the lucerne crop, most of which was no longer required for home production. In the spring of 1981 the field was deep cultivated in early March and sown with sugar beet. A f t e r three years in lucerne and one in barley, the 'era' of

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little land disturbance was over and the deep cultivations Struck at plants of V. triphyllos which had germinated early in March. No plants were found in that year, but some survived and seeded. With a return to barley in 1982 and 1983 all did not appear to have been lost for in the latter year 40-50 plants of V. triphyllos were recorded by Rutterford and the writer. In 1984 the field was again deep cultivated in preparation for sugar beet. No V. triphyllos was seen during the year. Once again it was not only the cultivations which would drop small seeds to a depth of at least 30cm but the follow up of three sprayings which would kill the remaining survivors. Following light cultivations, rye was sown in 1985 and inspite of an open crop with minimal disturbance, only one plant of V. triphyllos was seen. Rye followed again,with sugar beet in 1987 and no more plants were seen. In 1988 there was a return to barley, and in March Rutterford found a Single plant on the east headland 60m south of Broom Road on the west of the gorse boundary of the Warren. Further searches for more plants was to no avail and he decided to transplant it to an adjacent sand bank: but it failed to survive. It is feared that V. triphyllos may be extinct on this field. Acknowledgements I thank Marg Rutterford for his legendary stรถre of information and also Gigi Crompton for historical data and field information taken from her Report to the Nature Conservancy Council. I am grateful to Pat Blakey the Eriswell area farms manager for the Elveden Estate, for husbandry information and to Bill Sloan, the Agent, for his permission over many years, to walk the Broom Road fields for observations. References Crompton, G. (1986). A survey of rare plants in Eastern England. Internal Report. Nature Conservancy Council. Henslow, J. S. & Skepper, E. (1860). Veronica triphyllos in Flora of Suffolk. 63, accredited to Turner & Dillwyn, London. Hind, W. M. (1889). Veronica triphyllos in Flora of Suffolk, 262. London. Munday, J. T. (1973). Features of a map of 1370 superimposed on an OS Map of 1952, in: How we lived in Lakenheath 600 years ago. Private Publication. Ray, J. (1670). Veronica triphyllos in Catalogus Plantarum Angliae. London. Ray, J. (1724). Annotation b y j . Lightfoot in Ed. 111 of Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum. London. Copy in Bot. Dept. OXF. Trist, P. J. O . (1971). A survey of the agriculture of Suffolk, 143-5. RASE London. Trist, P. J. O. (1979), (Ed.). An ecological Flora of Breckland, 46. E. P. Publishing, Wakefield. P . J . O . Trist, 28 High Street, Balsham, Cambs. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 25

Influence of farming practice on the survival of Fingered Speedwell, Veronica triphyllos L.  

Trist, P. J. O.

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