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Deptford pink flowers.

As seen at Belton Hills Nature Reserve, Leigh on Sea, Essex.

The scientific name for Deptford Pink is "Dianthus armeria". It is normally a biennial plant (taking two years to grow and flower) producing a low level rosette of leaves (5 to 9 cm long) in the first year and tall (15 to 60cm high) spiky flowering shoots in the second year.  Occasionally it seem possible for the plants to flower in the first year. The five petal bright pink flowers are about 10mm diameter and appear in July - August.  The plants are relatively rare and the species needs looking after.  Helpfully, it is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, as well as occurring in the wild. People who have the plants are encouraged to help spread their seeds to promising locations.  Freshly bare disturbed soil on south facing slopes is suggested, such as road verges, railway cuttings, field edges and, of course, nature reserves. For more details about conservation plans and technical details about the species read here::  Natural England conservation plan (745k bytes pdf file)  Deptford Pink specification from plantlife.org (356k bytes pdf file )

The following pictures were taken at Belton Hills Nature Reserve, July - Aug 2011.

View of the steps leading down at Belton Hills
General location view. This is down the steps from the top on Marine Parade, down the hill, directly opposite to Leigh-on-Sea railway station.

Location of Deptford pink flowers
Locations where there were bunches of flowering pink flowers visible end July 2011. There are several immature rosettes (year 1 plants) amongst the vegetation in the area to the upper right.

Seed pods
Mature Deptford Pink seed pods to the left, sadly scattering their seeds on the footpath.  A couple of poor flowers are towards the top of the picture.

Seeding pod
A barely visible flowing shoot, soon to produce seeds.

Deptford Pink flower
In the second year the plant produces tall spiky shoots which flower in July, as above.  Each flower produces a tubular pod with about 20 small black seeds.

First year plant, with leaves only
This is what happens in the first year. The seedling grows a rosette of low lying leaves.

The Belton Hills Nature Reserve is one of the last remaining areas where the Deptford Pink grows. It used to be much more extensive along all the cliffs from Hadleigh Castle to Southend-on-Sea, Essex.  Members of the South East Essex Natural History Society have been instrumental in its conservation. What is needed is the clearance of some areas brambles and the disturbing of some of the soil surface in winter to encourage the germination of new seedlings.

Here is an image of an unusual Dianthus Armeria plant that is preparing to flower in the first year. (9 Sept 2011)  there are approx 120 leaves up to 10 cm long and 4 flowering shoots about 30 cm long.

Large image of Dianthus Armeria in pot - ready to flower in first year
The "biennial" plant plant is supposed to take two years to flower, growing a low level rosette of leaves in the first year and then the flowering shoots in the second year. This particular plant has grown rather well and got ahead of itself and look as though it might flower in the next few weeks, before the winter weather really comes on. We will see.

Here is the plant in November 2011, just under one year old.

It has a total of 28 pink flowers on 30th November 2011. The flowers seem to last several weeks in this cooler weather. Just the occasional night with light frost.

 


Three mature second year plants together.
There were approx 300 flowers at the peak.  Now past its flowering peak at July 2012.  Died 20 August 2012.
Entire plant put in polythene refuse sack and shaken to collect the seeds.

 

 

 

Any comments please e-mail Eric Johnston.

Page started:  9 August 2011, amended 30 Nov 2011.      Copyright (c) SSL 2011