Saving the Pasque Flower in Yorkshire

Once widespread, this plant is now very rare with over 99% of its population found on just 5 sites in the United Kingdom. The plant is small and can be inconspicuous except when it flowers in Spring around Easter time, hence the name Pasque flower, Pulsatilla Vulgaris.

The Pasque flower was thought to be lost in Yorkshire, until in 1984 a single plant was discovered in a heavily grazed grassland near Leeds. English Nature took over the lease of the site and work was done to increase the population, but this was unsuccessful, and the viability of the plants seed questioned.

How East Keswick Wildlife Trust became involved

In 2016 East Keswick Wildlife Trust were contacted by a senior officer from Natural England who suggested that we take on the project to help save the plant from extinction in Yorkshire. He knew of East Keswick Wildlife Trust’s successful conservation projects and developing expertise and success in germinating uncommon native wild plant species.

The Trust initially took 2 seeds from the plant and proved their viability by propagating 2 healthy plants which were then protected and kept safe in East Keswick. In 2019, East Keswick Wildlife Trust put together a project team and applied for a 5-year license from Natural England to secure the Pasque flower’s future in Yorkshire. The license was approved, and seed collected, with some deposited at the Millenium seed bank at Kew.

Counting the Pasque flower plugs in April 2022
Inspecting the site for the re-introduction project

A resounding success

  • 2020: East Keswick Wildlife Trust had a seed sowing germination success of 55% and a further 1,300 seeds were sown
  • 2021: 67 plants were plug planted into the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site at Ledsham Bank
  • April this year: East Keswick Wildlife Trust volunteers returned to survey the site and found that 31 plants had survived the winter with a number in flower.

We continue to nurture more seedlings with a view to plug planting them in the future and consider this project to be a resounding success.

Please follow the link below to watch a short film by the Natural History Museum about this lovely flower

Conservation Grazing on our Reserves

We use Dexter cows to conservation graze on our reserves. Dexter cows are a small very hardy breed that are very efficient grazers.

Advantages of this type of grazing are:

  • dominant plant species are eaten leaving space for a wider diversity of plants
  • trampling and disturbing the ground provides space for new seedlings to flourish
  • more that 250 species of insects can be found in cow pats providing vital food for birds and animals.
One of our team of volunteers Phil, with his grandson, checking the conservation herd of Dexter cows in the Ellikers Nature reserve.

Harvest Mice Hunt Results

On 29th and 30th October Ann Hanson and colleagues from the Yorkshire Mammal Group joined East Keswick Wildlife Trust to survey Fitts Fields for small mammals. 50 humane large Longworth traps were set on the Saturday evening and on Sunday morning we met to open the traps.

The children who had helped to set the traps were very excited to see what we would find.

32 of the 50 traps had small mammals in them, all looked healthy and were a good weight.

We recorded: 14 bank voles, 3 field voles, 14 wood mice and 1 common shrew.

This shows that there is a very good population of small mammals in these fields and although we did not find a harvest mouse this time, we do know that they are living here.