Species of the Month - August 2018

Each month we feature a picture of a species to be found on The Commons. Wherever possible, all species featured have been photographed here. This month we are featuring the Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris), which is flowering on the wetter parts of the Common. The name has an exotic ring; in mythology it was reputed to appeal to the tastebuds of the cattle on Mount Parnassus. It is actually a plant of the wet moorlands of the north of England and Scotland; wildernesses where the haunting cry of the curlew is heard and the Golden Eagle soars. Also known as the “bog star” it is the county plant of Cumbria and Sutherland.

This exquisite little plant is not a grass at all but a member of the Saxifrage family. The flowers have evolved to attract pollinating insects. It has heart shaped leaves and white chaliced shaped flowers. The green veins on the petals are thought to be a runway guiding the insects in.

You may wonder what it is doing here on our Common. Norfolk with its wet fens is one of its last refuges in the southern half of England. Drainage and development elsewhere has led to its demise.

Grass-of-Parnassus flowers relatively late in the year and herein lies a dilemma in our management approach to the Common. Our advisors at Natural England have recommended an earlier start to reed cutting and inevitably there will be some loss of flower heads. But in the long run, diversity generally, including our star performer, will benefit from more effective control of the aggressive reed.

More pictures and information can be found on the  Wildlife Trusts' website.

Click here to see the other Species of the month in 2018.

Click here to see the Species of the Month for last year, or here for 2016's Plants of the Month.