Working in the natural environment, it's part of the job that we often have to work with species that are often in decline. This can be for any number of reasons: change in land use, change in habitat, hunting, increase in natural predators or just simply being out competed - it's a tough world out there!
A number of years ago, Carrifran was chosen as a re-introduction site for a plant called Oblong Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis). This is a tiny little fern like plant, not to be confused with similar species such as Alpine Woodsia (Woodsia alpina), Brittle bladder fern (Cystopteris fragilis) or even Parsley fern (Cryptogramma crispa). Historically, it is thought that the plant was at Carrifran but had become absent over the years. It has never been of great abundance and it is because of this that it caught the eye of Victorian collectors who picked nearly every plant they could find. Others believe that this, combined with a changing climate has led to its near extinction.
Around 60 were planted at Carrifran as well as 2 other sites at our neighbour Grey Mares Tail (National Trust for Scotland). The bi-annual survey has been led by the NTS Ranger there Richard Clarkson so we decided to team up for day, along with volunteer David, to go hunting.
As Oblong Woodsia doesn't compete well with other vegetation, it was mostly planted on scree or at the base of rocks. During the last survey in 2012, only 12 of the original 60 plants were found. We were working from old photographic records and recorded the location of the plants we found, the length of the longest frond and whether or not sporangia (spores which basically mean the plant will reproduce) were present.
Sadly to say we only found 4 of the original 60 during our survey. We think they have simply been out competed by encroaching vegetation. The next one is planned in now for 2016 so it will be interesting to see how many we can find then.
Lynn and Richard
BFT Site Officer and NTS Ranger/Property Manager/Naturalist