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Tormentil - Potentilla erecta

Tormentil is a delicate relative of cinquefoil that forms straggling mats of fine stems, deeply-divided leaves and small, yellow 4-petalled flowers from June to September. It is a typical component of heathy grassland that is found throughout Britain, and can still be seen locally on Poor's Allotment. Once a common species of traditional dry pastures and meadows in the lowlands, it cannot withstand farming intensification, because it cannot compete with the vigour of fertilised herbage, nor intensive grazing.

Survey Results Map

A century ago, tormentil was common in woods and on heaths and dry banks. In 1948 it was common in heaths, meadows and woods.

Today, our map shows it to be very thinly scattered indeed, and that it has seemingly gone from places where it grew recently. The populations I have seen myself on the slopes below Madgetts and on the Nedge are very small, and only just hanging on below rampant bracken and ungrazed grass. The only reasonably robust population is on the woodland edge near the Polish Chapel. In short, this appears to be a species in rapid decline due mainly to lack of grassland management.

Verdict:

  • Steep decline over the last century, which is continuing.
  • With only small patches remaining, tormentil could easily become extinct in the parishes within the next few years.

George Peterken