This annual or biennial herb occurs on freely-draining skeletal or sandy soils on waste ground by the sea, including dockyards, roadsides and car parks. Lowland.
S. bocconei was first recorded in Britain in 1901. All extant populations are small and vulnerable, although it has been found at new sites in Cornwall and in E. Kent in the last ten years. Although sometimes considered native, its ruderal habitat and the failure of populations to persist suggest that it is more likely to be an introduction.
A Mediterranean-Atlantic species.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 18
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 9
Atlas Change Index: -0.22
RDB Species Accounts
Spergularia bocconei (Scheele) Graebner (Caryophyllaceae)
Greek sea-spurrey, Troellys Boccone
Status in Britain: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
Despite some authorities having regarded this species as probably native in south-west England (e.g. Clapham, et al. 1987), it seems more likely to be an ancient denizen. S. bocconei is mainly a plant of warmer climes, particularly abundant around the Mediterranean, and its British sites are all coastal, mostly at or near trading ports. In view of the long history of shipping trade between the Mediterranean and Cornish ports, S. bocconei could be a very ancient introduction.
Since 1950, S. bocconei has been recorded at about five sites on the mainland and one or two in the Isles of Scilly. It has now gone from Devon and seemingly also from the Isles of Scilly, and only two or three small populations are extant on the mainland. The largest (of about 50 plants in 1989 and 1994) is on sandy waste ground near the beach at Par, growing there in company with such species as Agrostis stolonifera, Coronopus didymus, Lolium perenne, Plantago major and Polygonum aviculare. A nearby population at Par china clay docks, which numbered in the hundreds in 1983, has been obliterated by concrete and tarmac. Only a few small plants were found in 1989, two of them right by the wall of a warehouse, but none has been seen since. In 1989, a few individuals were noted in a car-park at Land's End, in a weedy community with Matricaria matricarioides, Poa annua and Polygonum aviculare (FitzGerald 1990c), but not since. A few plants were seen on St Michael's Mount in 1990, but it is not known whether the plant still occurs there.
S. bocconei is an annual or biennial, resembling S. rubra, but differing in characters of the flower and inflorescence. It has a long flowering period between May and September. Little appears to be known of its biology.
Whatever its status, it is certainly one of our most threatened plants, not only because of its very few sites and small populations, but also because it is found in marginal or ruderal habitats in communities of common weeds. Clearly no such site is likely to merit statutory protection, and colonies could be destroyed overnight by municipal tidying or other cosmetic attention. Conservation is likely to be possible only through local vigilance combined with voluntary agreements on land management.
S. bocconei is reasonably common on Guernsey and Jersey (perhaps also surviving on Sark), and is generally regarded as a probable introduction in those islands (McClintock 1984; Le Sueur 1984). Elsewhere it occurs in south-western and southern Europe, with its stronghold around the Mediterranean, extending from Spain and Portugal to Greece, and eastwards to Iran. It is chiefly restricted to coastal regions.
M. J. Wigginton
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.