Despite my name, I don’t actually have petals!
The curly edges of petalwort fronds look a little like petals, making it one of the prettiest tiny plants in the dunes. Petalwort is a protected type of Liverwort, a small plant which is easy to confuse for a moss, because they look similar and can be found in the same kind of sheltered damp conditions. In sand dune systems, petalwort lives in the moist dune slacks. As it is so small, this species finds it hard to compete with taller plants for light and space, so will only survive in areas where vegetation is kept short. Grazing or mowing parts of the dune slacks can help it flourish.
Petalwort was first discovered in Anglesey in the mid-1800s by John Ralfs, who it is named after.
To spot petalwort, you'll have to look closely down on the ground. It usually only grows up to 15mm long and can be very hard to spot, so join a walking group or speak to a site ranger for your best chance of finding it. In terms of Dynamic Dunescapes sites, it has been recorded at Penhale in Cornwall, on the Sefton Coast, and at Braunton Burrows in Devon.
Keeping dune slack vegetation low and creating bare ground gives Petalwort the right kind of habitat to establish.
Projects protecting Petalwort
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.
Our project in Devon will help rejuvenate sand dune systems at Braunton Burrows and Woolacombe. Work in Devon is led by Plantlife and National Trust, working closely with Christie Estates.