Skullcap wildflower rediscovered in the Isle of Man for the first time in 142 years

The species' scientific name is Scutellaria galericulata, but it is more commonly known as 'Skullcap'. Credit: David Bellamy, Manx Wildlife Trust

A rare wildflower has been rediscovered in the Isle of Man for the first time in 142 years.

The 'Skullcap' species has blue flowers which are 1-2cm long and it usually grows 20-45cm tall.

It is a perennial member of the mint family and is found on an area of wet, marshy grassland which is best known to farmers on the island by its Manx name ‘garee’. 

he Isle of Man was admitted to the world network of Biosphere reserves in 2016. Credit: Mary Davies

The Manx Wildlife Trusts' (MWT) Agri-Environment Officer David Bellamy found the species whilst visiting a dairy farm on 4 July.

He photographed it, and it was later identified by the MWT botanist Andree Dubbeldam as being Skullcap, a species not seen in the wild on Island since the nineteenth century.

Andree has since visited the farm to confirm the finding and said: "Our recent review of Manx wildflowers has found that 45 species of native plant have gone extinct since botanical recording began, with almost half of these extinctions having occurred since the passage of the Wildlife Act in 1990, so this exciting rediscovery is very welcome news."

The Manx Wildlife Trust have also been trying to encourage puffins back to the Isle of Man. Credit: Manx Wildlife Trust

In the 1940s and 50s the 'Skullcap' species is known to have occurred accidentally in a garden in Onchan where it was imported with soil.

Prior to then, the species was first recorded 190 years ago in 1832 near Scarlett in the island by the world-famous Manx naturalist Professor Edward Forbes.

It was not recorded again for another half century, when it was seen by the celebrated Manx historian PMC Kermode on 6th July 1880, also at Scarlett, where it has not been recorded since. 

This was the last native record for the Island, until now.

Agriculture covers 72% of the Isle of Man. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

MWT will soon be publishing a review which has investigated the conservation status of all 500 wild plants found on the Island. 

This has found 41% are of conservation concern.

David Bellamy said: "This important rediscovery shows how vital farming and farmland habitats are to Manx biodiversity, especially our marshy garees, no matter how small, which are so easily lost to drainage or the abandonment of traditional grazing".

He concluded: "We see farming as the solution, not the problem to many of the ecological issues we face on the Island, and this is a great example of the many benefits of working closely with our farming community to improve wildlife habitats alongside productive agriculture."

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