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Saving Slapton’s Strapwort

Small, dainty, and unassuming, Strapwort (Corrigiola litoralis) is often missed by passers by. But this plant has a lot riding on its shoulders.

Whilst it is commonly found across Europe, Asia and Africa, there is only one place Strapwort is found in the United Kingdom – our National Nature Reserve at Slapton Ley. This means it is classed as Nationally Critically Endangered.

Views over Slapton Ley NNR

Strapwort has been lost from many locations in the UK due to habitat change, degradation, and climate change. Strapwort lives on shingle banks near pools of fresh water. Development, drainage, and pollution, have made these habitats in short supply in the UK.

Since 1996 Wild Planet Trust has been working on a recovery programme to prevent the extinction of this species from the British Isles. This project works on cultivating the species in captivity and then translocating individual plants to further locations around the Ley. Due to this propagation and translocation, populations appear to be stable with plants being found each year.

Strapwort seedlings being cultivated at Paignton Zoo

Strapwort can be a bit fussy when it comes to disturbance. The shingle needs some level of movement to prevent other plants from growing and out-competing this small plant. But too much disturbance and trampling can have negative effects. Wild Planet Trust work alongside the Field Studies Council to clear areas around the Ley which have become over grown with competing plants, with the hope of keeping the fussy Strapwort happy!

However, the coast is not clear for this beautiful little plant.

As Strapwort is only found at one location in the UK it is still at risk of extinction. And its home on the edge of the Ley may be threatened. Sea level rises caused by the ongoing climate crisis can result in salt water leaching in to the Ley, which would make it uninhabitable for this little plant. The extreme weather we have year on year due to climate change is also having an impact with the levels of the Ley rising higher in wet winters, and falling lower during summer droughts, putting the Strapwort’s fragile habitat at further risk.

Due to this threat, Wild Planet Trust have also been working with the National Trust to strengthen Strapwort’s chance of survival. In 2015, seeds from Slapton Ley were grown at Paignton Zoo and translocated as seedlings to Loe Pool, Cornwall. This is a site where Strapwort used to thrive; however it hasn’t been seen there since the late 20th centaury. Our hope is to reinstate a self-sustaining population of Strapwort plants.

As Strapwort is an annual plant, its population numbers vary each year. This makes it difficult to know if populations have grown year on year. However, the continued work of the National Trust and Wild Planet Trust have hopefully secured a future for Strapwort at Loe Pool.  

Wild Planet Trust team at Loe Pool translocating seedlings

Learn more about Strapwort and our work to protect it here

Learn more about other rare species found at Slapton on the Field Studies Council website here