Floating Pennywort: Part 1: why is it so invasive?

Earlier the year I attended an excellent workshop about Floating Pennywort hosted by Cam Valley Forum & Cambridge Conservation Forum. Below are some of the facts I gathered about this menace which is plaguing the Cam, Ouse and various Lodes in the area. Part 2 will be about the control methods currently in use and what may be available in the future.

Why is it such a pest?

All down to biology ….

  1. The plant has an amazing ability to reproduce itself, not by making seeds but by shedding parts of its stems which contain growth points called nodes – these nodes have the ability to start growing roots and shoots all over again. It is estimated that a square metre mat of the plant contains approximately 2,300 nodes, all of which are capable of regenerating new plants. The broken off plant parts can float pwort node
You can see the roots starting to grow at the nodes along the stem.

Photo credit: GB NNSS

2.It was bred by the aquatic nursery trade to be a vigorous spreader – which they successfully achieved. It can easily out-compete most native plant species.

3. It is not fussy about nutrient requirement and has no limiting nutrient level. Whatever nutrient it can find it tends to scoop up and high levels of toxic elements such as mercury have been found in plants in the Netherlands

4. It is frost tolerant and needs a good hard spell of freezing weather to stop growth. Frost will kill the top growth but the growth underwater may survive.

5. It doesn’t move (translocate) herbicides well to its leaves and stems and to really kill it off the apical (end) bud needs to be sprayed. A plant will survive a spray if the apical bud is under the water or is “hiding” on a non sprayed bank side. It can take up to three weeks for glyphosate (the herbicide used in control) to take effect.

6. In the south of the country it has started to set seeds; this could be due to warmer weather or more worryingly, species adaptation.

Next week: how it spreads and how it is currently being controlled in Cambridgeshire


Free Community Flood Group Training


Community flood volunteers and flood groups are key in helping their community to be prepared for flooding and other emergencies. They play a vital role in a community’s response before,during, and after a flood.
Working in partnership the Environment Agency, Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Anglian Water are offering 2 free training sessions for all new flood volunteers and those communities who are interested in setting up flood volunteers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
You don’t need any previous experience. You just need to be willing to learn how to help your community.

By attending the training, you’ll gain an insight into the work of the Environment Agency and its partners. During the day you will cover modules in:
– Role profile: what do community volunteers do?
– Introduction to emergency services: what they do and don’t do.
– Understanding flood risk: an introduction to flooding, responsibilities of organisations
and flood warnings.
– Flood risk awareness: personal safety and dangers of flood water
– Equipment: how to use hydrosacks and the correct use, maintenance and storage of
high visibility clothing and equipment.

The dates of the 2 training sessions are: (Please note you only need to attend one of these dates)
Wednesday 29th November
10:00 – 16:00
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Headquarters
Brampton Road
PE29 2NA
Friday 1st December
10:00 – 16:00
Environment Agency Office
Bromholme Lane
PE28 4NE
To get the most out of the training course places are limited to 30 attendees for each day. Places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis and a maximum of two representatives only from each community can attend.

If you would like to book your place please email Tamsyn.Ellway@environment-agency.gov.uk or call 020 302 51949 with your 1st and 2nd preference for which training session you would like to attend.

Ramsey River Litter Pick

 Calling all Ramsey Litter Heroes, your local river needs you!

On October 17 there will be a litter pick behind the George Hotel in Ramsey – anyone with enthusiasm for wildlife, nature and improving the environment is welcome. We will start at 10.30 am and will be finished by midday. All equipment will be provided. The morning will be run by RiverCare and Cambridgeshire ACRE.

RiverCare supports volunteer groups to adopt and look after a stretch of river near to them.  The looking after bit begins with holding litter picks;  litter is a real threat to our wildlife in and around our rivers and contributes to the spiralling pollution of our oceans.

If you are interested in coming along please contact Rachael Brown on rachael.brown@cambsacre.org.uk ,  01353 865037 or  visit the Events on Cambridgeshire ACRE’ s Facebook page. We need to know numbers to make sure we have enough equipment on the day.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Catchment Action Plan 2017

The 2017 Catchment Report and Action Plan for the Old Bedford including Middle Level Catchment can be found here .This plan is  a working document and  will be updated on a quarterly basis. Our next step is for catchment  partners  to prioritise the issues identified  and develop actions/programmes of work based on these priorities.

The terms of reference for the Partnership are here.

Catchment Partnership: host update January 2017

A quick up date of what I have been up to over the past few months as Catchment Partnership host for the Old Bedford including Middle Level :

Producing a Guide to achieving Good Ecological Potential: Good Ecological Potential (GEP) is a Water Framework term and refers to the best ecological condition an artificial (or heavily modified) water body can achieve without compromising the function of the water body. The Guide sets out to describe the concept of GEP, explain the terminology surrounding it and give examples of drain modifications which would lead to good GEP being achieved.  A working party of EA and IDB members have been working on the Guide and recently I was asked to support its completion which I was keen to do as it will  have real benefits for the management  of our catchment water bodies. A consultant (Roger Mitchell) has been busy finalising the text and we have recently had a workshop to consult on the draft version. The guide will be published and available on the ADA website March this year and is funded by the EA.

Eel pass installed at outfall of Donningtons Drain into South Holland Main Drain near Whaplode Drove,



Catchment Sensitive Farming events: I met with Andrew Downs; our Catchment Sensitive farming Advisor in December to learn more about agricultural diffuse pollution – in particular soil/fertiliser run off. As a result of this we are hosting an event  for farmers on 8 March at Flegcroft Farm (near Whittlesey) with speakers on soil erosion, tyre pressures and worms(!), lunch and a farm walk to look at his no till seed drill which helps to reduce soil run off. The partnership is funding the lunch for this event and all Partners are welcome to attend. We are also working on a pond dipping event near Pidley for April. Will keep you updated.

Bury Brook walk over: Helen (our newly married catchment coordinator, now Mrs Chapman) , myself and an EA geomorphologist did a walk over of Bury Brook last October there is a blog post of this here.  Helen will update us with the EA response to this walkover at our next meeting.

Water quality issues in the catchment: I met (with Helen) and the EA water quality planner at Brampton to look at how the Partnership could support the EA in making decisions about water quality issues. This was a very useful session and the offer of help/support is there if any partner wants to take up some sampling. I also attended a Fresh Water Habitats Trust workshop on volunteer water sampling where they had some simple but reliable testing kits for nitrogen and phosphate which I am considering getting hold of for all partners to try out if they want to. We could try a “snapshot” of the catchment in a particular month, just a thought.

The test kits are just little tubes which you mix the river water into. This  photo shows phosphate levels with darker meaning higher levels.


The partnership has also given a phosphate reader to the Great Fen to assist in monitoring P levels at this important site.

Giving Nature an Edge: Is an HLF project bid Cambridgeshire ACRE is putting together to follow on from the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership. Its focus is on restoring and raising awareness of the   natural heritage of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens. It will enable communities to work with local organisations to strengthening ecological networks to help reverse the decline in wildlife and habitats. Many partners are already involved in the bids development. Let me know if you want any more information.

Other activities

  • We need a new Catchment Action Plan to identify our priority issues and then decide what we are going to do about them. I have started work on this and met with other catchment hosts plus the Rivers Trust recently for guidance. I will need some help for the partnership in developing something meaningful which we can deliver and will talk about this at the next meeting
  • Other events I have attended: Sustainable Urban drainage workshop run by Anglian water, Fens for the Future conference on Natural Capital; Middle Level Biodiversity meeting.


I hope some of this has been of interest, Rachael.