The Lundy Cabbage (Coincya wrightii) is one of the few species of flora truly endemic to the British Isles, and most notable in that it is the only UK plant to host an endemic invertebrate species, the Lundy cabbage flea beetle. It occurs on the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, just off the coast of North Devon.
The cabbage was first identified as a species in its own right by Professor O.E. Schulz in 1936. It had previously been thought of as a member of the Coincya monensis family, but was discovered to be perennial and more hairy than this less specialised species. It's species name wrightii comes from the author of the article in which it first appeared, 'The Lundy Brassica, with some additions', published in the Journal of Botany, Issue 74 in 1936 by Dr. Elliston Wright.
The plant typically grows to about a metre in height, (although has been found to grow to 1.3 metres in sheltered areas) with a straight stem, woody at the base, and loose sprawling leaves that look a bit like those of the dandelion, only shorter, fatter and more stubby. Both the stem and the leaves are very hairy and after producing clusters of large, bright yellow flowers between May and August, it produces large hairy seed pods containing about 40 seeds. The Lundy cabbage is a coloniser of disturbed ground, its best years on Lundy occurring when there has been a mud slip or rock fall of the southern and eastern cliffs. The population has been known to fluctuate wildly in the past, but is now better understood and managed and appears to be stabilising. The area covered is still minute, 2500x600 metres roughly, but the plant is well adapted to growing in small nooks and crannies in difficult to reach areas of the cliffs where it is safe from maraudering predators, such as the wild goats and rabbits.
The population of Lundy cabbage is threatened by two factors, the grazing animals of the island, and the vigorous and profuse population of rhododendron, introduced onto Lundy by the Victorians. Rhododendron is the biggest threat, not just to the cabbage, but to all of the fauna of Lundy, as the acidic soils and warm, moist climate mean the plant could overrun the island if not controlled.
The Lundy cabbage is now protected by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and the plant appears on the Great Britain Red List as 'Vulnerable'. The island of Lundy, owned by The National Trust and managed by The Landscape Trust receives grants from English Nature, as well as a stewardship fund to employ a warden and control the bracken and rhododendron populations. The cabbage is currently being monitored by both English Nature and Leeds University and its future, at least for the present, seems bright.
There is no record of anyone having ever eaten a Lundy Cabbage.