This densely tufted perennial herb is now mainly confined to high, inaccessible crevices and ledges on Carboniferous limestone cliffs, though it is also found in tightly-grazed, species-rich limestone turf. It reproduces only by seed. Lowland.
The species was once abundant in Cheddar Gorge (N. Somerset), but there is a long history of gathering plants, and the lower slopes were stripped of the plant long ago. However, populations have increased recently following statutory protection, scrub clearance and the re-instatement of grazing. It persists at some nearby sites to which it was deliberately introduced, and is a casual elsewhere.
European Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
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Light (Ellenberg): 9
Moisture (Ellenberg): 2
Reaction (Ellenberg): 7
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 1
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.9
Annual Precipitation (mm): 979
Height (cm): 20
Perennation - primary
Life Form - primary
Clonality - primary
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 2
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: 0.19
Plantatt Conservation Status
RDB Species Accounts
Dianthus gratianopolitanus Vill. (Caryophyllaceae)
Cheddar pink, Penigan Mynyddig
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened. Endemic.
D. gratianopolitanus is native in Britain only on Carboniferous limestone in North Somerset. It has a long history in Cheddar, having been first recorded by John Ray "On Chidderoks in Somersetshire" in 1696. It is found characteristically at the edge of cliffs, rooting in thin soils or into rock crevices, and forming compact mats amongst short vegetation or trailing across bare rock outcrops. It is also to be found further away from the cliff edge in short-grazed grassland where the competition from other plants is not too great. It needs open sunny situations and does not tolerate much shade. Other plants in the species-rich limestone grassland community include Carex flacca, Festuca ovina, Helianthemum nummularium, Helictotrichon pratense, Koeleria macrantha, Pilosella officinarum, Sanguisorba minor, Scabiosa columbaria, Sedum forsterianum, Thalictrum minus and Thymus polytrichus. In the winter months its narrow grey-green leaves are easily overlooked in the grass turf.
It is a perennial plant flowering in June and July. The strongly scented flowers are visited by many insects including butterflies and day-flying moths. Reproduction is by seed, which germinates in autumn.
The Cheddar Gorge population is the largest, with many thousands of clumps still to be found. In addition, there are several small outlying sites within about 5 km of the Gorge where it appears to be native, but it has been introduced at other sites nearby, and has occurred as a casual further afield.
Its attractiveness has led to much collecting, and in the past there was a local tradition in Cheddar of gathering the flowers into posies for the tourist trade. It is now mostly to be found on high, inaccessible cliffs, the lower ledges having been stripped of their pinks many years ago. Despite special protection, picking and collecting still occur. However, the greatest threat is from the encroachment of scrub and the growth of secondary woodland that has taken place over the past forty years. Much of the species-rich grassland has become invaded by mixed scrub and ash woodland with a dense undergrowth of ivy, shading the cliff ledges and continuing to encroach into open grassland. To arrest this succession, a large-scale programme of scrub clearance and grazing was initiated a few years ago. This has already led to the re-establishment of open species-rich swards, and in some areas populations of D. gratianopolitanus are increasing.
D. gratianopolitanus is a European endemic, occurring in western and central Europe, but thought to be in general decline throughout its range. It is found mainly on limestone outcrops on mountains, ascending to the sub-alpine zone.
E. J. McDonnell