Transplant experiments on rare plant species from Upper Teesdale

  • Published source details Cranston D.M. & Valentine D.H. (1983) Transplant experiments on rare plant species from Upper Teesdale. Biological Conservation, 26, 175-191.


Upper Teesdale (northern England) supports many rare arctic-alpine plants. Prior to damming and flooding of a 320 ha area at Widdybank Fell (in Upper Teesdale), in 1970 conservationists rescued and transplanted plants of 20 of the rarer species. These were established at two sites in northern England, one in Durham and one in Cheshire (Experimental Grounds of Manchester University, Jodrell Bank; OS grid ref. SJ8091); here success at maintaining these species over nine years at Jodrell Bank are summarised.

The 20 target species included: four sedges Carex spp., a grass (blue moor-grass Sesleria albicans), a horsetail (variegated horsetail Equisetum variegatum), a rush (Alpine rush Juncus alpinoarticulatus), and 13 herbs (plus a hybrid Viola).
In July and September 1970, 50 plants of each species from the area to be flooded were removed (lifted with a core of surrounding turf). The cores were initially potted in clay pots but maintenance proved too labour intensive (frequent watering, and regular repotting to avoid restricting growth and to replace nutrients lost by leaching). The plants were thus transplanted into 75 cm ×60 cm x 50 cm high bottomless concrete troughs, filled with a soil mix resembling that at Teesdale. The top 12.5 cm consisted of varying mixtures of sugar limestone, limestone soil, Jodrell soil and horticultural peat, designed to suit each species.
The plants were watered via sub-surface pipes; weeding (pulling out with forceps) was undertaken as required aiming to achieve a weed-free monoculture. Vigorous species were divided and replanted as required. Plant performance was monitored to 1978.

In the year following removal most transplants established well. Weed-free monocultures were mostly achieved, except for Alpine meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum and Alpine bistort Polygonum viviparum where weeding was impractical due to their delicate stems. One species transplanted deliberately (E.variegatum) or some accidentally (common dog-violet Viola riviniana, thyme Thymus drucei, bell-flower Campanula rotundifolia and rock-rose Helianthemum chamaecistus) proved troublesome weeds.
The most successful target species were tall bog sedge Carex magellanica (Syn: paupercula), hair sedge C.capillaris, Teesdale violet Viola rupestris, V.rupestris × riviniana, northern bedstraw Galium boreale, hoary whitlow-grass Draba incana and Scottish asphodel Tofieldia pusilla. Less success was achieved with mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica, rare spring sedge Carex ericetorum, J.alpinoarticulatus and T.alpinum.
Two species were considered to have failed. Spring gentian Gentiana verna (around 90 rosettes in 1972; peaking at 700 in 1974) by 1978 had almost died out (5 rosettes); cause of deaths were unclear. Bird’s-eye primrose Primula farinosa did well in the first three years (1971-73; 100, 471 and 527 inflorescences respectively) but in 1974 the leaves yellowed early and there were only 38 inflorescences; by September 1975 all were dead.
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