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Nature in Wales


Vol. 17, no. 1 Spring 1980

Cotoneaster integerrimus - a conservation excercise.

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M. Morris
This article describes the author's attempts to save the rare
plant Cotoneaster integerrimus from its continuing decline on
the Great Orme at Llandudno. After trials and errors the plant
has been propagated successfully and seven new plants
have been reintroduced on limestone ledges.
Today the Great Orme is well known for its interesting and rare plants and has become
the Mecca of botanists visiting North Wales. This, however, has not always been the
case, for such prominent botanists as John Ray, Edward Llwyd, Dillenius and others
who collected plants in the early eighteenth century never included this headland in their
The town of Llandudno did not then exist and the area consisted of only a few miners'
and fishermen's cottages. Perhaps the reason why it was by-passed by these early
botanists was its relative isolation at the time. Visitors even today travel to the town of
Llandudno rather than through it.
It was not until 1783 that Cotoneaster integerrimus was first discovered on the Great
Orme by John Wynne Griffith of Gam, and the discovery made public in 1821 by William
Wilson, the bryologist from Warrington. A great many botanists must have visited the
area since those days and some of them with one specific aim: to see this very rare plant
and obtain a specimen for their herbaria.
Unfortunately, the vigour of the half dozen or so plants did not match the avidity of
these specimen collectors, coupled possibly with the depredations of their young growth
by the resident feral goats which roam on the Great Orme throughout the year.
In the course of the past twenty years I have noted a gradual deterioration in all but
one of the plants and there has been no evidence of natural regeneration, either
vegetative or from seed. Although the most robust of the plants does produce a few
suckers, any extension of the new growth is restricted by the isolated nature of the
habitat. Consequently, I decided that if some form of conservation was not undertaken
soon, C. integerrimus would become one more name on the extinct list.
In July 1970 three half-ripe cuttings were taken and placed in John Innes rooting
compost in a clay pot and covered with a polythene bag. The three failed to root. The
following year, three more cuttings were taken and given to a professional
horticulturalist to root under mist propagation conditions. These three also failed to root.
In 1972 no further attempt was made with cuttings as I felt that taking cuttings which
failed to root was doing more harm than good.
After considering other methods of propagation, I decided to air-layer a thin twig
approximately fifteen inches long that grew on the underside of the strongest of the
plants. This was done in August 1973 under very cramped conditions and with the
knowledge that I was doing surgery on one of the national rarities. The operation
completed, I left the scene dripping with sweat and with a rather troubled conscience. In
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