Local people nurture rare plants to restore Oxfordshire’s historic wetlands

25th May 2023

Rare and endangered plants will be nurtured on windowsills across Oxfordshire this summer, as local people help to restore and regenerate the county’s wetland and freshwater habitats.

GroWet is an initiative from national wildlife conservation charity Freshwater Habitats Trust. It gives local people the opportunity to play a hands-on role in bringing back threatened species, before they disappear entirely from Oxfordshire’s diverse freshwater habitats.

The charity is inviting community groups and local businesses to act as GroWet ‘community hubs’. Volunteers will collect plants from these community hubs and will care for them in homes, schools and community centres, before returning them at the end of the summer. The plants will then be introduced to Oxfordshire’s historic floodplains and fens to help restore these habitats, which are vital for wildlife.

Around 500 people volunteered for GroWet when it ran for the first time in 2022 and many of the plants grown that year have now been introduced to wetland and freshwater sites across Oxfordshire.

Sign up for GroWet
Two women wearing white teeshirts, standing outside. One handing a plant in a pot to the other.

Freshwater Habitats Trust Community Engagement Officer Lizzie Every said: “We had a phenomenal response to GroWet last year, with around 500 people volunteering to nurture the plants at home and in community centres. Our volunteers told us how rewarding they found it to do something practical to help restore freshwater habitats by caring for these beautiful, but threatened plants.

“We’re delighted to be bringing GroWet back this year so that more people can get involved and are keen to encourage everyone to take part – no gardening experience or plant knowledge is needed. Be sure to sign up quickly – GroWet registration is open until mid-June. This is an opportunity to make a difference to local wildlife in a very hands-on way and help to protect threatened species, some of which are at risk of disappearing completely in England.”

Group of people standing in a field.

The plants will be grown from seed and cuttings at Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum before being distributed to community hubs. They include 27 native species that were once plentiful in the British countryside and across Oxfordshire’s freshwaters and wetlands but are now in decline. Some are so rare they are at risk of disappearing from the whole of England without the sort of help being offered through GroWet. They include:

  • Creeping Marshwort: a miniature small creeping plant with delicate white flowers, which is listed as Endangered in the Red Data Book for Great Britain.
  • Ragged-Robin: a perennial herb with clusters of pink, star shaped flowers. Land drainage and reduced grazing have resulted in local declines, and it is classed as ‘Near Threatened’ in England.
  • Fen Violet, which now only grows at two sites in England, including one in Oxfordshire, and has pretty pale blue/purple or white flowers.
Ragged Robin

Individuals and community groups, schools and businesses in Oxfordshire can sign up to take part in GroWet as a volunteer or community hub through the Freshwater Habitats Trust website.

GroWet is a citizen science initiative, run through Freshwater Habitats Trust’s Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network project. This is part of the Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change at the Landscape Scale Programme led by Natural England in close partnership with the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and RBG Kew, Wakehurst.  This Shared Outcomes Funded Programme is sponsored by Defra and DESNZ.

GroWet is also supported by the ODS Group and Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum.