The windswept plateau and rocky cliffs of Lundy look rather barren when approaching the island from the sea, but a rich and colourful flora, adapted to life in these exposed conditions, is more obvious once on land. A walk from the Landing Bay, up the beach road, through Millcombe and then to the west side by way of the Old Lighthouse would take in many of the important plant habitats on the island.

Thrift © Andrew CleaveA typical sea cliff flora of Thrift Armeria maritima, Sea Campion Silene uniflora and Sheep’s-bit Jasione montana is found on the exposed sidelands of the island, especially around the Battery and towards the north end. At the south end, and on Rat Island Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria and Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa are more frequent, and Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus and English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum grow on rocks and very thin soils. Early spring flowers on the east side include Primrose Primula vulgaris and Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta which flower at their best before the bracken reaches full size. These are followed by forests of Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea, some reaching nearly 3 metres in height, and the much smaller Red Campion Silene dioica. Towards the end of the season Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea is one of the last flowering plants to put on a show of colour and it seems to do best along the edges of the old quarries.

Hare's Foot Clover © Andrew CleaveSome of Lundy’s special plants, including the endemic Lundy Cabbage Coincya wrightii can easily be seen from the beach road. Balm-leaved Figwort Scrophularia scorodonia is common here and the beautiful Wood Vetch Vicia sylvatica flourishes on the steep slopes near the bottom of the road. The island’s stone walls are host to plants such as Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cymbalaria muralis and Wall Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris, and Hare’s-foot Clover Trifolium arvense grows on the top of the walls, safe from grazing animals. Fern Grass Catapodium rigidum seems to grow only on walls, along with several species of ferns, described in more detail on the Ferns page.

 

 

Heath Spotted Orchid © Andrew CleaveThe grassland on top of the island is typical of acid grassland in exposed areas, dominated by Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea in places, but bright with the flowers of Tormentil Potentilla repens in the early summer. In damp flushes the semi-parasitic Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica can be found, often in association with Bog Pimpernel Anagallis tenella and Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris. A good colony of Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata grows in the grassland surrounding Pondsbury.
Round-leaved Sundew © Andrew CleaveIn the wettest bogs, dominated by Sphagnum mosses, Common Cotton Grass Eriophorum angustifolium is very obvious in the summer and the insectivorous Sundew Drosera rotundifolia can sometimes be found. Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum and Marsh St John’s Wort Hypericum elodes grow in the wettest areas and the leaves of Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris form extensive patches in these wet areas, although its tiny flowers are quite hard to find. The grassland at times gives way to a dense cover of Creeping Willow Salix repens which is most obvious in the spring when the bright yellow catkins appear. Later in the season Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix flowers in the wetter areas.

Damp gravelly areas and the margins of seasonal ponds support species like Chaffweed Anagallis minima, the UK’s smallest terrestrial plant. This is now becoming scarce on the mainland but seems to do well on Lundy. Sea Storksbill Erodium maritimum is another species of gravel areas and is abundant on Lundy but much harder to find on the mainland.

On top of the island, especially around Tibbetts (Admiralty Lookout) and towards the north end, there are some fine examples of a habitat type known as maritime, or waved heath. These areas are dominated by Western Dwarf Gorse Ulex gallii which flowers late in the summer, and Ling Calluna vulgaris and Bell Heather Erica cinerea, all providing a spectacular splash of colour.

The more sheltered east side of the island supports the only trees on Lundy which grow in a few small copses in steep coombes. They are mostly hardy species, such as Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and Beech Fagus sylvatica, with a number of Turkey Oaks Quercis cerris scattered amongst them. Other native species include Alder Alnus glutinosa, Grey Willow Salix cinerea and Elder Sambucus nigra, and these all provide sheltered conditions for several species of plants more typical of woodland, including ferns, mosses and liverworts. Plants which favour shaded habitats are more at home here and large umbellifers such as Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris and the invasive Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum grow where the soil is damp. Various species of introduced conifers can be found in Millcombe, including the native Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, but they do not thrive here.

Relics of cultivation and former habitation appear in some areas, and there are large stands of an early Narcissus cultivar Primrose Peerless Narcissus x biflora which survives near Belle Vue Cottages above the quarries.

Text by Andrew Cleave

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