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Ragged-robin - Lychnis flos-cuculi

This is a tall herb of damp ground and marshes that generates diffuse heads of pink flowers with characteristically divided petal - hence the 'ragged'. Close up there is little doubt about its identity, but from a distance it can be confused with Red Campion, which has a similar stature and flower colour. Like bugle, it can bear some shade, but is generally found in the open. If it has a preference, it is for less-fertile marshes and streamsides.

Survey Results Map

A century ago it was common in wet meadows, banks or streams, woods, etc, and in 1948 it was 'generally distributed' through the Dean district in wet places, woods and plantations. In the incomplete new Flora of Gloucestershire (2000), it was frequent in marshes, damp woodland rides, ditches, meadows and the banks of rivers and streams.

In 2017 it was recorded in two clusters and one isolated plant. There is a substantial population in the rushy pasture south of Coldharbour and scattered records from the seepages on the slopes above the brook that runs into Brockweir, but that's all. It was not seen on the banks of the Wye, the streamsides that gather around Rodmore Mill, or the damp patches that can still be found in the core of the Hudnalls, and only one plant was seen in the moist woods of the Bearce and Slade.

On the face of it, Ragged-robin has declined substantially and it now up against it, but I suspect there are more to be found. Land drainage and increasing shade within woods will have done it no good, and any increase in nutrients in the soil will work to its disadvantage. Wetland habitats have been in steep decline nationally, so it would be no surprise to find that they have declined in our parishes.

Verdict:

  • Probably a substantial decline since 1920 which is continuing, but more information is needed to be sure.
  • If further searches find no more, this is a species at risk. Drainage operations in two fields and a bit more shade in other locations would see it off.

George Peterken