Nine intrepid conservationists got on all-fours last Thursday (17th March) to remove a pernicious invader from Portreath’s New Walk. The three-cornered leek had invaded the path, ousting a very rare neighbour – Deptford pink – from its natural habitat. Deptford pink - so called due to a seventeenth century muddle in which it was mistaken for a related species that grew in Deptford, London – has suffered a massive 90% decline. It is now known only from only 30 localities in the Britain. The leek in question – Allium triquetrum – originated from the Mediterranean, being brought to these shores for cultivation in 1759. It has since naturalised, sometimes becoming a nuisance in south-west England, forming dense stands to the exclusion of native wildflowers.
Working with the Parish Council and English Nature, Plantlife International and Duchy College joined forces to tackle the problem at Portreath where it has also declined in recent years. The surface of the path was dug by hand – removing bulbs of the leek and coarse grasses. Tim Wilkins of Plantlife said, “The underlying cause of the invasion isn’t known but Deptford pink tends to grow on low nutrient soils whereas three-cornered leek seems to flourish on enriched soils. Dog fouling could be altering the soil conditions and accelerating the leek’s colonisation of ‘New Walk’. Local dog owners can do their bit to help protect this wonderful and very rare plant by using the poop-scoop bin provided.” It is hoped that Deptford pink will respond well to the clearance and put on a spectacular show of flowers in two years time.