UK: First centaury sighting in half a century


The perennial centaury (Centaurium scilloides), last seen in England in the 1960s, has been re-discovered growing on coastal cliffs in Cornwall. Its only other known UK habitat is the coastal paths of Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales.

The pink flowers of Perennial Centaury

Perennial centaury growing in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 2009.

© J R Crellin / Floral Images

The rare plants were found by an eagle-eyed couple from Penzance, Laurie and Helen Oakes, who knew immediately they had found something special, they just didn't realise how special. They took some photographs and quickly sent them off to Ian Bennalick, the East Cornwall recorder for the Botanical Society for the British Isles (BSBI) and Cornish botanical stalwart. He instantly recognised the plant: "When I saw the photos, I knew immediately that it was this species and my heart leapt. I and many others have been searching for the plant for years."

It's a wonder the plant has escaped attention for so long, if indeed it has been surviving, on the cliffs of Cornwall since the 1960s. The large pink flowers make its extraordinary game of hide-and-seek even more remarkable.

The UK marks the northern limit of the range of the perennial centaury; it's more commonly found up and down the Atlantic coast of Europe in Portugal, Spain, and France.

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