A very special plant comes to our pond (with luck)

Marsh Dock (Rumex palustris) seedling

The seedling above is a Marsh Dock – a pretty unusual plant of the muddy drawdown zones of pond and lakes – that special part of the pond that only appears as water levels drop in the warmer parts of the year.

The seed that this tiny plant germinated from was collected a few years ago – rather by accident- at Pinkhill Meadow, where the plant colonised naturally. At the time this was the only known site in Oxfordshire. According to my Oxfordshire flora it had only once previously been seen in the county, in the 1880s on Otmoor, where it was recorded by the famous botanist George Druce.

Penny Williams picked a small part of one flower spike in order to get her identification of the plant checked by the national recorder (the seeds are distinctive) – because it was a rather unusual plant for the county.

The map below from the National Biodiversity Network shows it is  pretty much on the edge of its range in Oxfordshire.

The national distribution of Marsh Dock (Rumex palustris) in the UK as sown by the National Biodiversity Network

Within a couple of years the plant had disappeared at Pinkhill – perhaps it had returned to the seedbank waiting for conditions to become favourable again.

But we had flower head and we kept the seeds for a few years – waiting for the time when we might grow the plant again, with the aim of taking seeds or plants back to Pinkhill.

So now we’re going to see if we can grow some.

If we’re lucky this is what we’ll end up with.

A rather wonderful dock – I know most people (especially animal lovers like me) will have a tendency to regard all docks as weeds – but docks are really very handsome once you get to appreciate their beauty. Landscape designers call them architectural. For the more practically minded amongst you, the seeds will be eaten by waterfowl.

Marsh Dock (Rumex palustris)

Our inelegant method of growing the plant is to put the seeds on a wet tissue at the edge of the pond and leave them to take pot luck. Probably not what they’d do at Kew, but we’ll see if it works. We’ve got one tiny seedling in a pot in the garden too – probably again it’s not quite getting the Kew level of treatment but – well, we can’t do everything.

If we’re successful this will be by far the most specialised and exacting plant or animal so far found in our garden (there’s a hostage to fortune!).

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2 Responses to “A very special plant comes to our pond (with luck)”

  1. Nick Mann Says:

    I’ve found the blog a really super resource – thank you. Two questions – is there anything more I could do to help promote it, and more generally is there anything more Habitat Aid could be doing to promote ponds/ is there anything you would like to see changed in our current offering/approach?

  2. Nick Mann Says:

    p.s. I posted this here because I have Rumex palustris in my pond too (sadly artficially introduced) – I had no idea how rare it was.

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