Upright Spurge is quite a rarity and the only place it is found (growing as a native as opposed to a garden escape) is in the Wye valley around Tintern and in the Forest of Dean. And where do I live? just in between the river Wye and the Forest of Dean. So not surprising that I might come across it sometime.
And that sometime was yesterday (21st June 2018) I was having a walk round some woods known as Tiddenham Chase which are managed by the Forestry Commision, just looking to see what was there not looking for anything specific and I noticed some spurge plants growing in the ‘central reservation’ of a forestry track, you know the stip down the middle which does not get trampled so much and consequently little plants can survive there. I saw these little spurges and they looked different so I took a few photos. Now I have to confess I am not a great fan of spurge. I see lots of Woodland Spurge and when I took students on field courses to the coast I sometimes came across Sea Spurge. I also once had some huge spurge growing as a weed in a garden which I think was Caper Spurge. But I generally do not take much notice of them.
Later on my walk I came across several more plants but this time growing at the edge of a track and here they were a bit taller,maybe 50 to 60 cm. I took a few more photos and then looked them up when I got home. I was pleased to find that they were the Upright Spurge which is also sometimes known as the Tintern Spurge as it is found in woods along the lower Wye valley which is famous for Tintern Abbey.
To put its rarity into context the BSBI says it is only recorded in 13 ten kilometer squares out of 2730 such squares that make up Great Britain. That is quite rare. Having said that if you look at their distribution map there are more squares but these probably represent garden escapes. You can see the cluster of Blue squares in the South west Gloucestershire area.
I think I saw about 10 to 15 pants and they were all in flower. Now one of the main identification characteristics is that the seed pods are covered with little green warty protuberances. These are only just visible on the photos I have taken as the seeds are yet to develop. But you can rest assured that I will be back later in the year to get photos of these characteristic seed pods.
I have also read…. sorry this is all information that I have found out since seeing these plants. Obviously I have no previous experience of them, but it seems that they particularly like disturbed soils and whilst they grow in woodlands it is Forestry woodlands with big tracks that are scuffed up by large forestry vehicles that seem to encourage their growth. Now Tiddenham Chase has had some felling in recent years and no doubt the tracks were quite disturbed at that time. Also I have read that they like alkaline conditions. Now where I saw the first individuals,in the ‘central reservation’, I also saw lots of a tiny plant called Fairy Flax which only grows where it is alkaline.
The photo above shows the flowers a bit closer and you can just make out the developing seed capsules. Perhaps more important is the leaf shape which is quite broadly oval with a blunt point,characteristic of this species.
In researching for this article I came across the Bristol Wildlife Blog and it has a page about Upright Spurge which you might like to look at and indeed other articles on that blog. In that blog it says it also grows in Highnam woods near Gloucester.
‘Seeds of Upright Spurge can lay dormant in the soil for years, possibly decades, and so if a site becomes overgrown, fresh disturbance can boost the population. At Highnam Woods, the RPSB does just that, using a rotavator, and so the population there is likely to be secure.’
So an unexpected find, here is a slide show of some other photos I took, I will probably add to it now I know how rare the species is…. still not that fussed about it though!