Spotlight on the rare Lundy Cabbage

by Assistant Warden, Siân Cann

One of the many special things about Lundy’s wildlife is its incredibly rare Lundy Cabbage plant. One of only a handful of endemic plant species in the UK, the Lundy Cabbage stands out even in this category, as it also hosts Britain’s only endemic beetle: the Bronze Lundy Cabbage Flea Beetle. The plant is highly protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, and the entire world population of this plant is restricted to a 2km long section of Lundy’s east coast.

The only way to monitor and understand how the Lundy Cabbage is faring is to count every single plant that is flowering on the island. The Cabbage count is undertaken at the beginning of every June, when the plant is in full bloom. For the past 25 years, Roger and Rosy Keay have had the challenge of being the Lundy Cabbage counters. Last year they completed their final survey and handed the mantle over to the head of the Lundy Field Society, Alan Rowland and his wife Sandra, alongside National Trust’s Wildlife Advisor for the South West, Janet Lister. Over the past few days, the new crew have been trekking up and down the east coast path in all weathers, binoculars and recording sheets in hand. They even got out on the water with the island wardens to view the inaccessible cliffs that are awash with the acidic yellow of flowering Lundy Cabbage.

Counting Cabbage is no easy walk through a wildflower meadow, with dense flowering heads making it extremely difficult to identify an individual plant. The hostile island terrain also means that many plants have to be counted from a long distance away. Despite the challenge, Alan, Sandra and Janet have thoroughly enjoyed their first of many forays into the world of Cabbage surveying. They said, ‘we’ve loved doing the count and are proud to contribute to the knowledge of this precious plant. It’s amazing how the colour of the Lundy Cabbage stands out amongst all the other yellow flowering plants; your eye gets drawn right to it. After how many we’ve seen this week, I think we’ll be counting Cabbages rather than sheep when we close our eyes from now on!’

We are eagerly awaiting their results, and hope that they have sweet Cabbage dreams after all their hard work.

For more information on visiting and staying on Lundy, check out the webpage here.