After more than a century of hiding, a rare plant has reappeared at Norfolk ‘ghost pond’
The pinkish-flowered plant, known as grass-poly and It is growing on the banks of an old pond in Norfolk.
After seeds submerged in the mud and disturbed during work to restore the pond, the plant started to grow.
And scientists say conservation efforts could lead to the return of other long-forgotten botanical gems.
A professor at University College London (UCL) came across the plant when, shortly after the first national lockdown had ended, he went to survey the pond at Heydon.
He never saw anything like it before and he quickly snapped a picture. Then he sent the photo to local botanist Dr. Jo Parmenter.
She referred to it as grass-poly, one of the UK’s rareest plants.
“It’s really quite beautiful,” says Prof Sayer. “We only found a handful of these plants in the pond but we’re hoping to cultivate this population and keep it going and expand it now we know it’s there.”
Dr Jo Parmenter was surprised to see the plant. “I never ever expected to see it in Norfolk; it was quite extraordinary,” she says. “I saw a photo and straight away I thought, I know what you are.”
The last confirmed record for grass-poly (Lythrum hyssopifolia) in Norfolk dates to more than a century ago.
The plant is found elsewhere in the UK in a few scattered populations that grow around lakes and on muddy open land.
The seeds remained buried in the mud at Heydon like a “time capsule”. When willows have pulled out to restore the pond, this disturbed the soil and let in light, allowing the seeds to germinate.
“There’s no oxygen, it’s very dark, and it’s perfect for preserving seeds,” says Prof Sayer, who is part of UCL’s Pond Restoration Research Group.
“There were thousands of ponds in Norfolk centuries ago. People neglected many of them. And they became known as “ghost ponds”.
Source: BBC NEWS