General characteristics

Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (15%)

Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (2%)

Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (2%)

Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (73%)

Dry grassland, Steppes (2%)

Improved grassland (2%)

Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (1%)

Coniferous woodland (2%)

Other land (including Towns, Villages, Roads, Waste places, Mines, Industrial sites) (1%)

Habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

Vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic and Baltic Coasts

The Lizard, at the extreme southwest tip of England, has been selected for its unusual representation of base-rich igneous and acid metamorphic cliffs. The combination of its complex geology and a southern location has resulted in the diverse nature of the plants and plant communities found here, many of which are particularly species-rich and some of which are rare in the UK. The site includes a typical sequence of cliff vegetation, with a variety of truly maritime plants, which grades into grazed and ungrazed communities on exposed cliffs with dense red fescue Festuca rubra and wild asparagus Asparagus officinalis ssp. prostratus. There are also transitions to heathland, normally dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris and bell heather Erica cinerea, though in addition the Lizard has extensive heath rich in the rare Cornish heath Erica vagans. The Lizard is one of the richest botanical areas in the UK and is of considerable value at EU level, owing to its unusual ecology and outlying representatives of rare species.

Hard oligo-mesotrophic waters with benthic vegetation of Chara spp.

The coastal peninsula of the Lizard in south-west England supports a nationally unique series of oligo-mesotrophic waterbodies in which high base-status is not due to limestone or shell-sand. The Lizard is partly underlain by igneous serpentine rock which gives rise to calcium-deficient ground waters that are rich in magnesium. Groundwater drains from adjoining wet and dry serpentine heaths to feed the oligo-mesotrophic waterbodies in which another unusual feature is the occurrence of stoneworts Chara species typical of calcareous lakes, together with species normally associated with acid conditions, such as bog pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius. Stoneworts present include three Red Data Book species – Chara baltica, C. curta and C. fragifera.

Mediterranean temporary ponds  * Priority feature

There are widespread examples of the serpentine variant of Mediterranean temporary ponds on the Lizard heaths. A number of rare species, including chives Allium schoenoprasum, dwarf rush Juncus capitatus and land quillwort Isoetes histrix, occur in this habitat type. The acid pool type is the main locality on the Lizard for an important assemblage of rare species, including pigmy rush Juncus pygmaeus, three-lobed crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus and yellow centaury Cicendia filiformis. A number of these pools support important invertebrate populations, including the water beetles Graptodytes flavipes and Dryops striatellus. However, in many areas the habitat type is much reduced, as trackways that once ensured the creation of the pools have fallen into disuse.

Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix

The Lizard peninsula in the extreme southwest of England has a unique type of wet heath, NVC type H5 Erica vagans – Schoenus nigricans heath. This wet heath occurs extensively on poorly-drained soils derived from ultra-basic serpentine and gabbro. It contains unusual mixtures of species characteristic of acid soils growing with species typical of base-rich soils.

European dry heaths

The typical inland, dry heathland on the Lizard is NVC type H4 Ulex gallii – Agrostis curtisii heath, sometimes called ‘short heath’, which differs from other dry heaths in the area which are Annex I type Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans. These heathlands are dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris and bell heather Erica cinerea. Western gorse Ulex gallii, Cornish heath Erica vagans, cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and bristle bent Agrostis curtisii can be locally dominant. Good stands of this vegetation type are found on extensive loess deposits.

Dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans  * Priority feature

All good-quality areas of dry Atlantic coastal heaths with Erica vagans on the Lizard peninsula in southwest England are included in this site. The full range of structural and floristic variation within NVC type H6 Erica vagans – Ulex europaeus heath is covered, ranging from cliff-top heaths rich in maritime species, such as spring squill Scilla verna, to more inland heaths containing abundant bristle bent Agrostis curtisii.

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