Related to the dune gentian (Gentianella uliginosa), I am a tiny plant, no more than an inch or two tall, which lives in dune grassland.
In April and May, dune gentian appears to sprinkle the landscape with small but bright purple flowers. This plant is quite rare but it's seeds are also pretty tough – they are able to survive in the soil for a few years and wait until the environmental conditions are right to germinate and produce new plants. As the dunes become more and more covered with tall plants and shrubs, dune gentian can struggle to survive in their shade, and thrives best in the early successional areas of sand dunes less vegetation.
Dune gentian is endemic to the UK – it can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
In areas of short vegetation or almost bare ground in the Penhale dunes.
Introducing cows or encouraging rabbit populations leads to more grazing on the dunes. By keeping vegetation short, the early gentian can thrive.
Projects protecting Early Gentian
At Penhale, you can’t miss these eye-catching dunes, standing around 90 metres above sea level, they’re pretty tall for a dune system. On the north coast of Cornwall near the town of Perranporth, Penhale Dunes are part of the Cornish Killas National Character Area and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The wide and sandy, three kilometre-long Perran beach in front provides sand for the dune system, which is blown up into the dunes by the wind.