Small-flowered buttercup – gone!

Small-flowered buttercup near Earley Gate. May 2013

Small-flowered buttercup near Earley Gate. May 2013

Last year I found a group of Small-flowered buttercup (Ranunculus parviflorus) on campus. This species is on the Rare Plant Register for Berkshire and South Oxfordshire. It occurs on disturbed dry ground such as arable fields and in the centre of dirt tracks. There are no other records for this species on the BSBI database within the 10km square that includes Whiteknights Campus.  Nationally the species has shown decline and is now commonest in the South-West.  Reading is in an area from which the species has been largely lost.

The University of Reading was awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award last year for the third time in recognition of the outstanding green space that is Whiteknights Campus. Despite this, the Small-flowered buttercup is no longer with us.

Unfortunately the bare ground that it occupied has been regularly sprayed with weed-killer through 2013 and the first part of 2014. At least once the grass-cutting machinery that cuts the adjacent lawn was driven over it and the parking of cars has resulted in heavy soil compaction in the precise area where the Small-flowered buttercup grew.  This is less than ideal management for this species.  Given the very small size of this species it was probably overlooked.

There may be seeds in the soil (although there were no signs of successful seed set last year) but these will not be able to germinate unless this plot of waste ground is dug over and the seeds exposed to light and air.  It would be good to see this plant back on campus again this year.  On other parts of campus there is active management to promote wildlife and general biodiversity. Perhaps the Grounds department can add this lowly but fascinating plant to their management plans?

Crawley, M. J. (2005) Rare Plant Register for Berkshire & South Oxfordshire (v.c. 22)

About Fay Newbery

PhD student in the Plant Pathology Research Group.
This entry was posted in Flowering Plants, Plants, Ranunculaceae and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Small-flowered buttercup – gone!

  1. Juliet Hilary says:

    Interesting to read of your loss of small-flowered buttercup and I hope it is in the seedbank and comes back. I used to live in Reading and Berkshire but had never seen this plant until I moved to south Dorset where it is locally abundant. Such an easy plant to overlook and one I like to point out to people.

  2. Fay Newbery says:

    No sign of this area being dug over yet. Car-parking compaction is still occurring over the area the buttercup was seen. The remainder of the rough ground is becoming dominated by a layer of acrocarpous mosses.

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