Managing rare species – Meadow Clary
I managed a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) Calcareous Grassland, where the notable species is Meadow Clary – Salvia pratensis. This beautifully tall perennial, purple flowered plant, grows naturally on only 21 sites across the UK, while in France it can be found growing readily along road verges. In the UK, the specific grassland habitat has been lost due to the intensification of farming, and it is also thought that this plant is at its most northern point of habitation. It was introduced to our green and pleasant land by the Romans, possibly brought in unknowingly. This plant can be found in the Oxfordshire countryside along old Roman roads in several places, most notably on Stonesfield Common where it is managed very successfully by the Wychwood Project.
Meadow Clary – Salvia Pratensis – grows very well on calcareous soils (Alkaline based soil). It generally flowers between June and July, then produces seeds in August that are about the same size as a mustard seed. The seed, although big, struggles to penetrate through dense thatches of grass, so having areas of bare ground within a few metres of a plant is paramount for it to set seed successfully. Once the seed has germinated, it will take another couple of years before it flowers. With plants living up to 15 or even 20 years, it may look like you have a thriving population, but it is essential to check that you have seedlings and juvenile plants to replace older plants. Several sites have seemingly lost Meadow Clary overnight, where mature plants have failed to produce viable seed and there have been no juvenile plants coming through.