Water Violet, a rare aquatic plant, has returned to Fleet Pond Nature Reserve after a 21 year absence. Local botanist Chris Hall re-discovered the plant late last year. Management work was carried out on an old drainage ditch leading to Coldstream Marsh in the winter of 2009 by Hart Countryside Service. It is thought viable seeds lay dormant in the mud and that the re-profiling of the ditch exposed them to the light and led to germination.
Water Violet is a delicate aquatic plant of shallow water or wet mud, found in ditches and pond margins in clear, nutrient-poor water. It produces spikes of delicate lilac flowers in May and June. The name refers to the colour of its flowers but this plant is actually a member of the primrose family. It was first recorded at Fleet Pond in 1850 and there were many subsequent records.
Water Violet is a scarce wild flower in Hampshire with only three other recently confirmed native locations in the county. It is also regionally scarce and nationally uncommon, being mainly confined to lowland England. It has declined due to drainage, pollution, excessive management of ditches and recreational pressures on suitable aquatic habitats.
There has been a national decline in the number of native plant species and the re-occurrence of this scarce native plant after more than two decades is very positive news.
Tim Ackroyd, the Fleet Pond Ranger, says:
“The re-discovery of Water Violet at Fleet Pond supports the need for regular biological surveys, which help to monitor the health of the pond. We can attribute the re-appearance of this scarce plant to careful management. Exciting large-scale habitat restoration work is being carried out at the nature reserve to enhance biodiversity. This work is funded by Natural England for a ten year period and includes improving the water quality and reducing silt deposition within the pond and restoring valuable marshland, reedbed and heathland habitats”
The Fleet Pond Management Plan can be viewed here.
Picture credit here.