We are witnessing real declines in our wildlife driven by the burden of increasing human population and the need to meet its requirements. In terms of wildlife, when species are widely distributed, localised disasters such as disease, predation or habitat change have little effect on the overall population. Once habitats become seriously fragmented, however, species can become isolated and then when any of the above issues arise, they can be ‘lost’, which is our euphemism for our role in pushing species another step towards the extinction vortex and the path of no return.
On an East Anglian scale this might well apply to the Deptford Pink which currently grows on the Valley Trail. Through the twentieth century enormous changes in the way our countryside was managed led to the fragmentation and destruction of semi-natural habitats. In the case of the Deptford Pink there were seventeen locally recorded sites for this species. By 2011 only one remained and only ten plants were recorded at that site.
Since then, great effort has gone into managing the site to ensure that the species does not disappear. Numerous steps continue to be taken to ensure that it survives, because it is so rare, but this intervention is far from natural. The species can thrive in gardens but then, they too, are totally artificial places where competition is ‘weeded out’ to allow the preferentially selected plants to thrive. Therefore, most gardens contain very few wildflowers even though most of them are beneficial to our wildlife, not just as sources of nectar for bees and other insects, but also as host plants for the caterpillars of moths, butterflies, and other insects.
The Deptford Pink has its main flowering period throughout July although it will continue to show a bloom or two right up to Christmas if the weather is not too cold. As such, one would imagine that it would be a robust contender as a born survivor but that just does not seem to be the case and, instead, it seems to require cossetting and care to retain it.
Although it is a member of the beautiful dianthus family, it is easily overlooked, for although the lovely pink flowers, speckled with tiny white dots, are typical of the species, each flower is small and only two or three of them open at a time on each stem, so it can be a bit tricky to spot this shy bloomer.