Our ecologist Matt Wainhouse chanced upon a rather unassuming, but nationally scarce native plant yesterday, tucked between paving slabs on the side of a South Dock, opposite the Isle of Dogs, in east London.
The plant is Four-leaved allseed Polycarpon tetraphyllum, a member of the Pink or Carnation family. This is an annual herb growing to 15 cm in height, found on sandy soils, in coastal areas and on wasteland, across Europe, parts of North America and Australia, and the Channel Islands. Although widespread, it is classified as scarce in Britain – or is it?
Matt says, “As a native, Four-leaved allseed is nationally scarce in the UK. However this species is increasing in London as an escapee, hijacking its way into the country in the pots of ornamental trees and shrubs shipped in from the Mediterranean. The London population of Four-leaved allseed should not be regarded as notable in reports, as it is mostly likely of non-native stock”.
The plant can most likely be found growing in the compost beneath pot-grown mediterranean woody species.