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Give it some wellie!

One of Wales most threatened plants is thriving again thanks to walkers’ muddy wellies!

March 31 2012

Three-lobed crowfoot © Lliam Rooney

Three-lobed crowfoot © Lliam Rooney

An incredibly rare flower that was struggling to survive is once again growing on a coastal path in Anglesey.

The “three-lobed water-crowfoot” a pretty member of the buttercup family has made a remarkable come back thanks to walkers traipsing through the mud in their wellies and disturbing the ground which helps this little plant grow.

Trevor Dines from Plantlife Cymru says “We don’t always get to work on glamorous orchids in wonderful meadows - this mud-loving crowfoot likes nothing more than creeping through filthy ditches, ruts and shallow pools. Frogs and toads seem to like the same conditions and you’ll often find tadpoles with it. Like them, it has to mature quickly before the ruts and puddles dry out in summer. So it sheds lots of seed into the mud in early spring and then disappears completely.”

At this new site, less than 20 plants grow in a small ditch. There are no cattle or sheep to disturb the mud so the plants depend entirely on walkers that cross the ditch on the Coastal Path. “It’s a precarious situation. If someone decides to put in stepping stones or a wooden bridge over the ditch that would be the end of this tiny population.”

But in certain parts of Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsular the three-lobed water-crowfoot needed a little extra help. Plantlife experts have helped cleared out over grown pools so horses and cattle can trample the edges creating that much needed open mud. When the animals move from pool to pool they also spread the seed with their hooves and as a result this tiny flower is springing up all along the tracks and is now growing in more sites than ever before.

“Now we know what the little flower likes, we’re getting good at getting it back. To maintain heathland in good condition, we’re encouraging farmers to use cattle and horses rather than burning or not grazing at all. In this way, the gorse and heather thrives and the tiny crowfoot finds a foothold under their hooves. Across Wales, the number of sites for this plant have doubled since 1999 – a true conservation success story!”

Did you know?

  • The three-lobed water-crowfoot is a member of the buttercup family
  • The tiny plant grows in shallow pools, puddles and even tractor and hoof tracks.
  • The conservation of three-lobed water-crowfoot is a major international responsibility for Wales.

For more information and images, please contact Justina Simpson on 07833 700 177 or email justina.simpson@plantlife.org.uk.