Rare discovery brings Christ-moss cheer

Tuesday 22nd December 2015

Rabbit MossRabbit Moss

Last week, an incredibly rare moss was discovered still clinging on to a rocky outcrop, on Walton Common, an Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserve near Clevedon.

The ‘Rabbit Moss’ is nationally rare and vulnerable and only known to exist in a few sites around North Somerset and South Devon. It was thought to have gone from the Walton Common site, but was re-discovered last week by Sharon Pilkington of the Species Recovery Trust.

This moss is known within the scientific community as Cheilothela chloropus (meaning thick nipple), though is more commonly referred to as ‘Rabbit Moss’, this name is due to its need for very closely grazed turf, in order to survive. Historically on Walton Common, rabbits have provided this much needed munching service, along with the public exercising their common land rights to graze livestock.

The Avon Wildlife Trust manage the reserve to help rare wildflowers and mosses recover – using traditional hand tools on the areas the moss was once known to have flourished.

Both organisations are very excited about the discovery and the Species Recovery Trust will be getting out their tweezers this Christmas and preparing to do some micro-management in order to give this very special moss a bit more growing space.

In the future, Avon Wildlife Trust also plan to re-introduce some livestock grazing which would be hugely beneficial to the Rabbit Moss and other rare plants that have historically been found on Walton Common.