Deptford pink is a plant of dry pastures, disturbed ground, roadsides, field borders and hedgerows. It generally occurs on light, sandy soil often of rather high pH, but is also known on other soils such as at Woodwalton Fen where it grew on peaty soil of pH 4.8. Seed production by Deptford pink is prolific, a normal sized plant producing about 400 seeds. The precise conditions required for germination and establishment are not known, but it is thought to require open conditions for success. However, it is able to compete with taller vegetation once established.
The range of Deptford pink in Britain lies between north Wales and the south coast of England, with most of its sites occurring in southern England. It has declined severely over the last 60 years, exhibiting one of the most rapid declines of any species in the British flora. Having once been widespread, it was reduced to 34 sites by 1970 and is now known from only 13 to 15 sites. This decline appears to be ongoing and most of the remaining populations are small (1-50 plants), although there are a few sites with hundreds of plants where conditions are suitable. Deptford pink is not threatened in Europe as a whole, where it occurs widely across western and central regions.
In GB Deptford pink is classified as Vulnerable. It is specially protected under Schedule 8 of the the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in respect to England and Wales only.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Conversion of pasture to arable and building land.
Cessation of grazing.
Destruction of hedgerows.
Successional changes leading to loss of the relatively open vegetation structure which Deptford pink is known to require.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain the geographical range of Deptford pink in the UK.
Maintain viable populations at all extant native sites.
Achieve natural colonisation of new sites.
Increase population size at three existing native sites by 2003.
Establish populations at three sites within the historic range by 2008
Establish an ex-situ programme to protect genetic diversity, create a reserve population and provide experimental material.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Site safeguard and management
Consider notifying sites supporting viable, native populations as SSSIs where this is necessary to ensure their long-term protection. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Consider the need for conservation management at all extant sites. Mechanisms for implementing suitable management may include relevant agri-environment schemes. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Ensure that pasture and hedgerow sites are protected from development. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
When next reviewed, consider targeting Countryside Stewardship and other relevant agri-environment schemes to land adjacent to viable sites for Deptford pink so as to provide opportunities for its population expansion. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Species management and protection
Undertake experimental management on three selected extant sites and three historic sites with the aim of regenerating plants from the seed-bank. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Assess the feasibility and desirability of reintroducing this species to selected historic sites should regeneration from the seed-bank prove unsuccessful. (ACTION: CCW, NE, JNCC)
Collect seed from a representative number of native sites in different parts of the range of this species and deposit in the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place (Kew). Plants should also be propagated for reintroductions if necessary. (ACTION: CCW, NE, RBG Kew)
Ensure that landowners and managers on all remaining sites for Deptford pink are advised of its importance and appropriate management for its conservation. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
As far as possible, ensure that all relevant agri-environment project officers and members of relevant regional agri-environment consultation groups are advised of locations of Deptford pink, its importance, and the need to secure agreements for beneficial land management both within existing sites and in the surrounding areas. (ACTION: CCW, NE, MAFF, WOAD)
Future Research and Monitoring
Resurvey all native sites where Deptford pink has been recorded since 1970, and consider a more extensive survey of potential sites, in order to determine its current status, ensure that appropriate management is in place, and identify threats to remaining populations. At least 10 historic sites should also be investigated with a view to clarifying the reasons for the decline of this species. (ACTION: CCW, NE, JNCC)
Undertake research into the autecology of Deptford pink with a view to refining management techniques for its conservation. (ACTION: JNCC)
Devise and implement a monitoring programme for all extant populations. This would need to cover an assessment of population size, current management and potential threats. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Undertake an initial genetic screening of populations of this species with a view to informing in-situ and ex-situ conservation priorities. (Action: CCW, NE)
Assess the current status of the species in Europe and if appropriate contact European colleagues with a view to exchanging information on the conservation of this species. (Action: CCW, NE, JNCC)
Communications and Publicity
Raise awareness amongst the farming community of formerly widespread, but now rapidly declining species of farmland, such as Deptford pink. An article could be produced for the farming press. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume I: Vertebrates and vascular plants (June 1998, Tranche 2, Vol I, p161)
Visit the ARKive website to view images and further information relating to this species
Read the Plantlife species dossier relating to this species