Bashing back the bracken

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Latest update 04.01.2013 11:14

Seven National Trust volunteers armed with sticks took to the Giant's Causeway in early July in a bracken-bashing exercise that we hope will help wildlife on the coast flourish.

Bracken is a vigorous native plant that can grow faster and taller than many other plants, often smothering smaller plants over large areas. This can severely reduce the range of plants and animals that can be found on many habitats. At the Giant’s Causeway bracken has encroached over much of the seashore meadow, and is threatening to spread onto the habitat of a very rare and protected snail called the narrow-mouthed whorl snail vertigo angustior. Four of the Giant’s Causeway's bays provide the only habitat across the whole of Northern Ireland for this snail so we think it is very important to control the bracken.

By hitting grown bracken with sticks we can bruise the stem so that it will fall over. The plant loses a lot of energy regrowing a new stem and, if repeated a couple of times a year, bracken bashing can be a very effective control measure.

'Spraying with herbicides can control bracken,' says Learning and Conservation Officer Cliff Henry. 'But because of how close it is to the snail habitat, we could not risk damaging the snails.'

Volunteers successfully bashed about 3000 square metres of bracken. 'The bracken that we worked was very dense,' says Cliff Henry, 'so we will be beating bracken in the same locations in August, and possibly repeat the operation next year.'

Join us for our next bracken bashing event which will take place on Tuesday 23 August.