News from Roland Wicksteed for June 2012

  • To Conserve and protect!! The Netted Carpet Moth and the Touch-Me-Not balsam plant

    07:56 16 June 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    Post by Roland Wicksteed. 

    The Netted Carpet Moth is one of the rarest moths in the U.K and classified as vulnerable.

    Netted Carpet Moth on Balsam Leaf. Late July. Courtesy of John Knowler

    It is vulnerable partly because the moth larvae/caterpillars are entirely reliant on a scarce annual plant known as Touch Me Not Balsam.It is the caterpillars' only food source.Both moth and plant are restricted, almost exclusively, to the Lake District albeit in small numbers and at just a few sites.One such site is at St Catherine’s in the  East Windermere area.
    Netted Carpet Moth Caterpillar on Touch Me Not Balsam at St Catherine's. Late August. note partly eaten seed pod

    National Trust Rangers have greatly increased the numbers of plants here, and hence the moth populations over the years, by actively improving conditions for the plant. Touch Me Not grows well in damp open woodlands, especially after the ground has been churned up.
    Young volunteer, Michael, raking up the ground in autumn to give the touch me not seeds a better chance of germinating

    Severe ground disturbance is undertaken by rangers and volunteers at St. Catherine's in the winter and early spring, before the seedlings appear.
     A good stand of Touch Me Not Balsam at St Catherine's. Mid July 2011.

    Touch Me Not also requires dappled sunlight to grow well; some wooded areas are managed with this in mind; branches have been cut back, and a certain amount of coppicing takes place.
    A bumble bee pollinating Touch Me Not Flower. Millerground Late July 2011

    At Millerground, in 2009, the cutting down of non native trees has let in a lot more light. This has allowed touch me not plants to thrive here once again after many years absence.
    Touch me not balsam appearing in early spring
    A Netted Carpet Moth Caterpillar forming a triangle between stem and leaf stalk. Late August
    A Netted Carpet Moth Caterpillar munching on a seed pod. Early September 2011. Courtesy of John Hooson

    Finally, non native Himalayan Balsam is pulled up regularly to stop it over running and displacing the far less robust and far less common Touch Me Not stands.
  • So far no sign of.... A return of the giant Hogweed.... At ferry Nab!!

    19:51 06 June 2012
    By Roland Wicksteed, Dave Jackson, Dave Almond, James Archer, Neil Winder, Ben Knipe

    In June 2011, several Giant Hogweed plants were found to be growing alongside the National Trust/SLDC footpath at Ferry Nab. A National Trust Ranger wearing full protective clothing and goggles dug out the plants and then burnt them.

    The Giant Hogweed plant (HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANUM) is a native of the Caucasus region, and Central Asia. Victorians brought it back for use as an ornamental garden plant. It is able to grow taller than 15 feet, and more! 
    Giant Hogweed’s flower head in June 2011. Cockshott point/Ferry Nab
    The sap contains “furanocoumarins,”a toxin that photosensitises the skin. Exposure to sunlight causes painful blistering. The scars can take years to heal. A small amount in the eyes has been known to cause temporary or even permanent blindness.

    This plant often causes river bank erosion...its favourite place to grow. When it dies back in Winter, often only bare ground remains. 

     The Giant Hogweed can easily shade out native plants because it grows so fast and so tall; it becomes dominant very quickly if not controlled.

    The Giant Hogweed, classed as a biennial, lives for between two to Seven years. In its final year it produces the flower heads, each containing up to 5,000 seeds, seeding in late August. The seeds remain viable for up to seven years in the ground.
    Giant Hogweed at Ferry Nab bordering SLDC and N.T footpaths at Ferry Nab leading to Cockshott Point. Note size of plant compared to large trenching spade. Plant APPROX 15 feet tall! Native plants at threat include Touch Me Not Balsam

    A recent survey in this area indicates there is no sign of regeneration of the yet! Further monitoring will take place later this year.

News from Roland Wicksteed

Photo of Roland Wicksteed

Ranger. It is a privilege to live and work in this beautiful area; it is unique. I am based at Windermere and Troutbeck. My favourite work is drystone walling and hedgelaying. I enjoy instructing Working Holiday Groups in both of these traditional crafts. Part of my work involves keeping the numbers of "invasive non native species" down as much as possible. I also continue to work on a project, the aim of which is to increase the numbers of the scarce touch me not balsam plants,(yellow flowering plants in the image's background!) which the rare netted carpet moth depends upon for its survival. The numbers of moths and plants are mainly restricted to a few small sites in The Lake District.