Lundy Cabbage

Lundy Cabbage

Description and biology

The Lundy cabbage is an herb with a slender taproot (main root of the plant growing straight downward from the stem). The plant is classified as a perennial (plant that lives, grows, flowers, and produces seeds for three or more consecutive years).

Initially, the Lundy cabbage bears a rosette or rounded cluster of stalked, hairy leaves that measure 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30.5 centimeters) in length. As the plant matures, flowering stems rise stout and erect to a height of 3.3 feet (1 meter). These stems are woody, covered with downward spreading hairs, and have few leaves.

Flowers are clustered at the tops of the stems in groupings of about 20 blossoms. Each blossom has four long, yellow petals. The plant’s seed pod measures 2.4 to 3.1 inches (6.1 to 7.9 centimeters) long and is very narrow. When it becomes dry, it splits open and releases round, purplish–black seeds.

Habitat and current distribution

The Lundy cabbage is found only on Lundy Island, located off the southwest coast of England. The island is about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) in size.

The plant is restricted to about 0.3 mile (0.5 kilometer) of cliff habitat in the southeast corner and to a few isolated areas along the east coast of Lundy Island. Botanists (people specializing in the study of plants) do not know how many individual plants are currently in existence.

The cabbage grows on east– and south–facing slopes and sea cliffs. It does not grow well in soils containing lime. It favors sheltered spots such as gullies, where it is damp in the winter and hot and sunny in the summer.

History and conservation measures

The Lundy cabbage is threatened by the presence of goats and deer on the island. Although sheep do not appear to touch the plant, they graze widely on the slope where it grows, trampling its habitat. The plant may also be threatened by the spreading growth of bracken (a large fern) and an introduced rhododendron species.

Lundy Island is owned by the National Trust of the United Kingdom, an association that preserves places of natural beauty or buildings of architectural or historical interest in the British Isles. The island is managed by the Landmark Trust.

All vegetation and flora on the island are protected, and the cabbage population is carefully monitored. The English Nature Recovery Programme has recommended that bracken be cleared from parts of the island as a conservation measure to save the Lundy cabbage.