Goldilocks aster (Galatella linosyris)
Goldilocks aster, Galatella linosyris, is a woody, long-lived perennial plant that has become restricted to a few coastal localities in western Britain, where it occurs on limestone sea-cliffs, rocky slopes and in patches on cliff-top grassland. It is a small, delicate yellow flower that tends to be found in isolated areas on shallow soil. It tends to thrive on inaccessible cliff faces, where populations can receive ample sunlight and are free from predatory herbivores.
Now thought to be extinct in Cumbria, due to over-grazing and competition with scrub, Goldilocks aster has only eight remaining populations in the UK, mainly in Wales and Devon.
Reason for decline
Although seed is freely produced, unlike other plants, Goldilocks aster is self-incompatible, meaning that one flower cannot fertilise another flower on the same plant. Therefore, when populations become isolated, such as they are in the UK, and pollination between different plants is restricted, then the likelihood of producing seed that is fertile and has the capacity to germinate is diminished. These populations become genetically vulnerable, and the lack of genetic diversity limits the possibility of younger plants inheriting traits that respond and adapt to threats of a changing environment, increasing the possibility of extinction. The historic populations in south Cumbria were also victim to agricultural intensification which exacerbated the isolation of these colonies and led to the local extinction.
This is a small-scale reintroduction project. Its aim is to reintroduce Goldilocks aster to south Cumbria and north Lancashire, the formerly northernmost population in the UK. With the help of local volunteers, we will spread seed and plant plug plants in experimental plots at the chosen sites. The outcome will consist of two new populations, one at Humphrey Head where the plant was last extant in Cumbria, the other at Jack Scout, within the natural geographic range of the species and with a similar habitat and south-west facing aspect.