Oxfordshire people invited to grow plants to help local wetlands

Freshwater Habitats Trust staff hold seedlings being grown for the GroWet project outside a greenhouse at Oxford Botanic Garden.

People across Oxfordshire are being asked to grow endangered water plants in gardens and on windowsills to help save the county’s threatened wetland and freshwater wildlife.

GroWet is the latest initiative from Freshwater Habitats Trust. The Oxford-based conservation charity is inviting people to grow rare wetland plants at home and in community centres, schools and nursing homes.

The plants are being grown from seed and cuttings at Oxford Botanic Garden. Over the next few weeks, Freshwater Habitats Trust will deliver up to 1,000 seedlings and young plants to groups and individuals who have signed up to take part in GroWet.

Most of the seedlings can be grown in pots, in gardens or even on windowsills, while aquatic plants can be kept in tubs and containers. The GroWet team will offer advice to help people nurture the plants over the summer. The plants will then be transplanted into their natural habitats in Oxfordshire’s wild ponds and wetlands in the autumn.

The GroWet plants include 27 native species that were once plentiful in the British countryside and across Oxfordshire’s 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 the GroWet project. They include:

  • Fen violet, which now only grows at three sites in England, including one in Oxfordshire, and has pretty pale blue/purple or white flowers.
  • Frogbit– a free-floating aquatic plant with rosettes of heart-shaped leaves that rest on the water’s surface. It is now classed as locally-scarce in Oxfordshire and since 2010 has only been recorded at one site in the county.
  • Greater water-parsnip, which was once abundant but has declined rapidly in the last 200 years. This plant grows on the margins of ponds, rivers and lakes and produces white flowers in July and August.

Freshwater Habitats Trust Community Engagement Officer Lizzie Every said: “GroWet is an opportunity for people across Oxfordshire to grow a rare plant at home and make a real difference to our beautiful but threatened wetland freshwater habitats, which are special places because they support such a rich variety of species.

“We have already had a fantastic response to GroWet from individuals and groups across Oxfordshire – people just love that they are helping some of our most endangered and beautiful plants in such a practical way.  We’re inviting anyone in the county to get involved – you don’t need to be green fingered as the plants are easy to look after and we’ll be here to help along the way.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing people enjoying these beautiful and fascinating plants over the summer before transplanting them to their natural habitats, helping us restore our local wetlands.”

GroWet is part of Freshwater Habitats Trust’s Building Oxfordshire’s Freshwater Network project. Funded through the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, this major initiative marks the beginning of the charity’s new approach to protecting and restoring freshwater habitats.

Freshwater Habitats Trust CEO Jeremy Biggs said: “Freshwater plants and animals are declining even faster than terrestrial and marine species and we know that freshwater wildlife needs to move around between ponds, lakes and rivers in order to survive. That’s why we’re creating the Freshwater Network – a national network of clean, unpolluted habitats for nature to thrive.

“We’re starting here in Oxfordshire because it’s one of the nation’s Important Freshwater Landscapes, with an extraordinary but declining freshwater heritage. Our local wetlands are home to a wealth of rare freshwater plants and animals but many of these species are now threatened and even facing extinction in Britain.

“GroWet is an important part of this project. By nurturing endangered plants, local people can make a real difference in helping us to restore some of Britain’s most precious wetlands.”

People can sign up to take part in GroWet through the Freshwater Habitats Trust website and at local events. For more information on taking part in GroWet as an individual, school or community group please contact Lizzie Every, Freshwater Habitats Trust Community Engagement Officer: eevery@freshwaterhabitats.org.uk

Freshwater Habitats Trust’s Building Oxfordshire’s Freshwater Network project is supported by the National Trust, Oxford Botanic Garden, People-in-Action, River Thame Conservation Trust, Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project and Thames Water. It is funded through the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. 

Staff from Freshwater Habitats Trust crouch behind a selection of wetland plants. being grown for the GroWet project at Oxford Botanic Garden.

Elinor MacDonald (Freshwater Futures Trainee, Freshwater Habitats Trust), Lizzie Every (Community Engagement Officer, Freshwater Habitats Trust) and Paola Perez (Freshwater Futures Trainee, Freshwater Habitats Trust).

 

 

 

 

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