Welsh hawkweed

Welsh hawkweed is a flowering plant in the daisy family, which is only found in Wales. It was first recorded in Denbighshire at the beginning of the 20th Century, but wasn’t recorded again until 1998.

Description and identification: Welsh hawkweed has yellow flowers and blue-ish green leaves that are toothed and spotted. There are over 400 different species in the Hieracium genus in Britain, and they are all very similar so identification of individual species can be difficult.

Seed has been deposited in the Millennium Seed Bank, and it is being grown in cultivation at the National Botanic Garden of Wales (Tim Rich / National Museum of Wales)Habitat: This species grows on dry rock ledges and in crevices. It prefers open, exposed areas with little competing vegetation.

Ecology and reproduction: Like other hawkweeds, Welsh hawkweed is a perennial. The main flowering period is between June and July, but it can also flower again in September. Hawkweeds reproduce asexually without fertilisation, so pollination is not required for seed production. This is known as apomixis. When the seeds are ripe the flower head opens up to release the seeds, which are wind-dispersed (in a similar way to dandelions).

Distribution: Welsh hawkweed is found only in Wales, and is known from only three sites. In a survey of these sites in 1998 it was found that one of the populations, near Treorchy in the South Wales Valleys, had probably become extinct due to a rock fall, but it was found at the other two sites – the Great Orme near Llandudno and Creigiau Eglwyseg near Llangollen in Denbighshire. At Creigiau Eglwyseg this was the first time the species had been recorded since 1907.

Threats: The Welsh hawkweed is intrinsically vulnerable because of its small population size and limited distribution. However it has never been widespread and the current populations aren’t in any imminent danger of extinction. Potential threats include rock climbers clearing out handholds, scrub invasion and collection of specimens by botanists.

Status: This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is classed as nationally rare in the UK and is a priority for conservation action in Denbighshire. Creigiau Eglwyseg is protected as part of Ruabon/Llantysilio Mountain and Minera Site of Special Scientific Interest.


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