Nestled below the wild landscape of Bodmin Moor, sitting among the ruins of an important nineteenth century mining landscape with the distinctive engine houses and spoil heaps - is another more hidden, easily forgotten but no less important gem...
Conserving a species is one thing, but informing the public of a species that is so rare and so small that most people will never have seen, nor ever will see it - is definitely more of a challenge!
Such is the case of the Cornish Path Moss, a moss that occurs on only two sites in the world – both on Bodmin Moor - which I have the task of conserving through the Back from the Brink Project.
Not only is this species small and rare but it also lives in quite hostile environments, exclusively on mine waste high in copper, but often with other mine waste contaminants too. Only male plants have been recorded and it reproduces asexually producing rhizoidal tubers from the leaf axil which grow into new plants.
What is interesting is how it has evolved to tolerate levels of heavy metals that other species might struggle with – something that has happened since mining began in Cornwall- over 4,000 years ago. This has potential to help our understanding of evolutionary biology and genetics which may be relevant to future crop breeding.
Management work to help this species includes scrub clearance and the creation of bare ground to allow it to recolonise and avoid competition from other vegetation.
My interest in plants, and in particular mosses and liverworts, drew me to this project post with its combination of science, practical management and public engagement.
We are so often drawn to the most obvious beauty in the natural world- birds, whales, orchids… But the longer I work with the natural world, the more I see that nature consists of layers that can be peeled like an onion which continually reveals hidden secrets and different beauty that has its own intrinsic interest and meaning.
This is certainly the case when you really start looking at lower plants like mosses and liverworts!
Keep an eye out for information on the Cornish Path Moss and how you can help here.