STINKING GOOSEFOOT AT LANDGUARD POINT M. D.
Landguard Point, near Felixstowe, is well known as an important site for Stinking Goosefoot (Chenopodium vulvaria L.). However, in recent years, no more than five plants have been found in any one year on the whole peninsula, mainly in an area of sandy gravel near the Bird Observatory perimeter fence. On 17th September, 1989, the continued existence of this species received a tremendous boost when I discovered a colony of at least 120 small plants - many bearing flowers - near the coastguard station on Felixstowe's south sea front. This area has recently received a great deal of disturbance during the clearance of beach huts pending development. Stinking Goosefoot is a low-growing annual with a spread of up to 35cm, but often reaching no more than 4 or 5cm across. It is normally late in appearance, usually not germinating until mid-summer and flowering from late July into the autumn. The species gets its vernacular name from its strong, odious smell, like rotting fish (and reminding me of old inner tubes), which is due to the plants high trimethylamine content. The species is found throughout Europe north to Denmark, east to southwest Asia and in North Africa. It has also been introduced to North America. Despite this wide distribution it has fared poorly in Britain. Its former distribution was from Cornwall and Kent north to D u r h a m , with a small introduced population in southern Scotland, but by 1960 was known from only 15 10km squares and now from just two. Its habitat preference includes the landward side of saltmarshes and waste places inland where it could feasibly be rediscovered. At present it exists only at Landguard Point, where it grows on disturbed shingle, and at Burton Bradstock in Dorset where it survives on an area of eroding cliffs. It requires disturbed areas and appears unable to survive if land is left untouched for even two years. It is this reliance on regularly-disturbed land that has been its downfall, with many former sites stabilized and developed for other uses. Regular erosion of the cliffs in Dorset should help the species survive there, but at Landguard, habitat management is required for its continued existence. Regular disturbance of the ground is to be carried out to achieve this. Whenever there has been ground disturbance on the peninsula in the past the species has appeared, until stabilization makes the area unsuitable. It seems likely there is a good seed reserve in the ground throughout the area. However,'with proposed developments encroaching from several directions it is unlikely the species will be able to gain a stable foothold and it seems destined to remain very rare. In April 1990 the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, grant-aided by the Nature Conservancy Council, arranged for an area adjacent to the Bird Observatory compound to be shallow ploughed, providing a suitable amount of disturbance to encourage exposed Stinking Goosefoot seed to germinate. The success of this operation was shown in late summer when young plants began to appear and a total of 90 plants was counted during August 1990. Rather surprisingly, these plants suffered heavy cropping by the large rabbit popu-
Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 27 (1991)
STINKING GOOSEFOOT AT L A N D G U A R D POINT
lation which was suffering from a lack of food due to the excessively dry conditions at this time. After a period of wetter weather there was a second flush of young plants and a maximum of 120 plants was counted. It seems that continued disturbance of this kind could be the best way to ensure the existence of Stinking Goosefoot at Landguard. Stinking Goosefoot is currently on the list of species on schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and, as such, is afforded special protection. The Nature Conservancy Council is currently working on recovery plans for these species and Stinking Goosefoot is officially classified by them as 'vulnerable/endangered'. References Clapham, A . R., Tutin, T. G . & Moore, D. M. (1987). Flora of the British Isles (Third Edition). Cambridge University Press. Copping, A . (1983). Plant Records from Landguard Common (1979-1982). Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc., 19, 374. Simpson, F. W. (1982). Simpson's Flora of Suffolk. Suffolk Naturalists' Society. M. D. Crewe, 11 Orwell Court, California, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 4 D F
Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 27 (1991)
Plate 3: Slinking Gooseloot, Cherwpiidium (p 30).
vulvaria a national rarity at Landguard Point near Feliistowc (Photo: S. H. Piotrowski)