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Rare and threatened bog flora of Cantabria

Teresa Farino
23/09/2009 12:54:33

A very wet but rewarding day rummaging around in an Alto Campóo peatbog, in southern Cantabria.

Posted in: Flora, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Cantabria | Mainland Spain, Northern Spain

aLesser Bladderwort - Utricularia minor © Teresa FarinoLesser Bladderwort
Utricularia minor
© Teresa Farino
At the end of July, my good friend Javier Goñi (a Cantabrian botanist), my children and I went to Alto Campóo (west of Reinosa, in southern Cantabria) in search of Marsh Helleborines (Epipactis palustris). Rather disappointingly, although the small bog near Abiada - which is known locale for this species - turned up a dozen or so plants, they were all firmly in fruit. Compensation was at hand in the surrounding acid grassland, however, in the form of dozens of lilac spikes of Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium): a species so rare in Britain that it is listed as Endangered in Cheffings and Farrell’s Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain (JNCC; 2005), as well as being protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

Summer Lady's-tresses - Spiranthes aestivalis © Teresa FarinoSummer Lady's-tresses
Spiranthes aestivalis
© Teresa Farino
With an hour or so to kill before lunch, we visited a much wetter area on the margins of the Embalse del Ebro, which Javi knew as a site for Summer Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis). This charming little orchid, extinct in Great Britain, and included in the 2001 Lista Roja de la Flora Vascular Cántabra (LRFVC) as Vulnerable, was growing here in profusion. Although delightful, however, it paled into insignificance when we realised that it was accompanied by an array of rather unusual ‘peatbog’ plants, several of which are somewhat scarce in Spain, either at a regional and national level, while others would make a British botanist jump for joy!

Where standing water was present, I found my first ever bladderworts in flower: Lesser Bladderwort (Utricularia minor), a species that is considered to be Endangered at a national level in Spain (Lista Roja de la Oblong-leaved Sundew - Drosera intermedia © Teresa FarinoOblong-leaved Sundew
Drosera intermedia
© Teresa Farino
Flora Vascular Española; 2008), as well as Vulnerable in Cantabria (LRFVC; 2001). In addition, the margins of these pools hosted a dense carpet of another insectivorous plant that was a first for me: Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia), which is also categorised as Vulnerable in the LRFVC. Unfortunately all the plants were just a few days away from flowering.

Other interesting plants here included the diminutive Baldellia repens and the delightful Heath Lobelia (Lobelia urens), which is categorised as Vulnerable in the UK Red List. More commonplace but equally charismatic species included Marsh St John’s-wort (Hypericum elodes), Dorset Heath (Erica ciliaris), which I’d only ever seen in coastal habitats in Spain previously, Marsh Speedwell (Veronica scutellata) and clumps of White Beak-sedge (Rhynchospora alba), all in full bloom. No doubt we’d have unearthed even more botanical specialities if we’d had time to explore for longer, but my kids were clamouring for food… I’ll certainly be back there again next year though!

Many thanks to Javier for this delightful day...

Heath Lobelia - Lobelia urens © Teresa FarinoHeath Lobelia
Lobelia urens
© Teresa Farino
Baldellia repens © Teresa FarinoBaldellia repens© Teresa Farino

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