One of the rarest flowers in the world — the Dwarf Pansy — has finally bloomed on a tiny island in the Isles of Scilly after a 16-year absence! Rangers from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust have spent seven years tending to the island of Tean, all in the hopes of seeing the rare purple pansy once again.
Why Did Dwarf Pansies Disappear?
The Isles of Scilly, located off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, UK, is home to just over 2,000 people. With 145 mostly untouched islands, the Isles of Scilly are said to be outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded, and unspoilt.
A long time ago, on the tiny island of Tean, measuring just 0.16 sq km — there lived just 10 residents, a single chapel, and a rare species of pansy that was smaller than a pencil tip.
Because the Dwarf Pansy is so tiny, it requires short, well-maintained turf to actually grow. Until the second world war, the Tean’s vegetation was grazed by livestock and rabbits. With the disappearance of these animals, tougher plants like bracken and bramble flourished — leaving little space for the Dwarf Pansy to grow. So, the rare plant disappeared from the island.
How Did The Dwarf Pansies Reappear Again?
Thanks to the awesome conservation work of some local rangers, the Dwarf Pansy has bloomed once again. The rangers at the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust have been maintaining the vegetation on the island of Tean for the past seven years!
During spring and late summer every year, the rangers conduct two cuts on Tean that mimic the grazing patterns of livestock. The results have been tremendous! Since the land management started seven years ago, the rangers have seen increases in plant species such as Western clover, Lady's bedstraw, Changing forget-me-not, Portland spurge, Bird's foot-trefoil, Stork's-bill — and, most recently, the Dwarf Pansy.
The rangers spotted just two flowering pansies, but the search is continuing to see if the rare flower has spread further around the island.
Protecting Rare Plant Species
The future of the rare Dwarf Pansy is uncertain, but the rangers from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust are doing everything they can to preserve this wonderful plant species!
According to Darren Mason, the Wildlife Trust’s head ranger, “the Dwarf Pansy is found on small sites on Tresco and Bryher as well but both of those sites are affected by sea-level rise and coastal erosion, so we needed to do the work on Tean to secure the future for this rare species.”
“Now it is flowering again that will set the seed and we’re hoping it will continue to spread further afield on Tean,” said Darren Mason. The rangers are also eager to find the long-absent Orange bird's foot (Ornithopus pinnatus) — another tiny plant species that disappeared long ago.
We absolutely love this story. Protecting vulnerable plant species can be tedious and time-consuming, but the rangers at the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust have shown that it’s completely worth it — because it’s the right thing to do!
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