Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Cornish Path Moss

Ditrichum cornubicum

World population covers only
Extinct in
other country
Now found
in Cornwall

What is Cornish Path Moss?

This unusual plant was first discovered in 1963 and was only recognised as a separate species in 1976. It’s currently only found at three sites and these are the only known sites in the world.

It has evolved to tolerate very high levels of metals in the soil, especially copper, and its current homes are former copper mines (Phoenix United Mine and Crow’s Nest, on the edge of Bodmin Moor and Mountain Mine in Co Cork, Ireland).

Why is it in trouble?

This plant is in slow decline, and appears to have recently been lost from a third location, at a disused metal mine in Co. Cork, Ireland. The main threat is grassing over of spoil heaps and encroachment of scrub, including invasive alien species such as the rhododendron and cotoneaster, now the mines are no longer active.

How we will help the Cornish Path Moss

This Back from the Brink project, led by Plantlife, will survey the habitat of this species and monitor its populations, and attempt to find as-yet undiscovered populations. We need to find out what makes the species tick; the habitat management that will work for the moss, and how to halt its decline. In particular, we need to understand more about the specific metal content of the places where it grows. We also need to remove the key threats to its survival.

We’ll train local bryophyte (moss and liverwort) experts to identify the moss and continue the search for more of it, and we’ll run activities – including with Falmouth School of Art – to tell people about this special plant.

What we’re aiming for

By the end of the project, we aim to have a greater understanding of the needs and distribution of this species, and to have halted its decline. We hope to have encouraged others to protect the existing populations and search for more.

Cornish Path Moss - Ditrichum cornubicum - Des Callaghan 1800
Ditrichum cornubicum2 - Des Callaghan
Cornish Path Moss - Ditrichum cornubicum3 - Des Callaghan

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