Bristol rock-cress

Scientific name: Arabis scabra

Status: Nationally rare, IUCN – Vulnerable. Also protected plant (under Schedule 8 of Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981).

Flowering time: March – May

Description: For most of the year this plant consists of a rosette of dark green leaves up to only 5 cm in diameter. The ‘scabra’ part of its scientific name means ‘bristled’, which comes from the small hairs on its leaf surfaces. Small white flowers in spring.

Social history: Found in the Avon Gorge in 1686 by John Ray, a famous British botanist, who wrote the first systematic British Flora guide.

Taxonomy: Belongs to the Brassicaceae (or cabbage) family.

Global and national distribution: The Avon Gorge is the only place where this plant grows wild in the UK. A rare plant of the French Alps and Pyrenees.

Threats: The very small rosette is easily shaded out by invasive plants like Holm oak, or smothered in leaf litter or ivy. Slugs and snails love to eat it.

Photographs: © Denice Stout, © John Martin.