How the water-crowfoot is fighting the elements

The water-crowfoot (Ranunculus), native to the UK has found an ingenious way to resist being washed away by rising river levels. The plant is usually found in rivers or streams, if not then close by, and in the past, when the river levels have been too low, the rare flower, a member of the Buttercup family, would wilt due to lack of water. Now the flower is fighting a different problem.

With the rising water levels due to high rainfall, the water-crowfoot has had to adapt to avoid the effects. Most of the flowers have two types of leaves; floating and submerged. The large, lobed leaves are able to float, whilst the serrated edges of the submerged leaves are able to withstand fast currents of water. The combination of these two types of leaves helps prevent the plant from being overcome by the water and washed downstream.

The water-crowfoot has also been helped to survive by walkers on Anglesey’s coastal path. The tiny plant has been able to grow due to the hikers disturbing the soil, meaning it can spread its seeds before summer when the mud will begin to dry out. There is no livestock in the area to spread out the mud, so the plant relies entirely on the walkers.

Trevor Dines of Plantlife Cymru said, “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.”

Experts from Plantlife have also been clearing out the pools in the area, so that livestock is able to walk along the edges, helping further the spread of the water-crowfoot. Mr Dines added, “Now we know what the little flower likes, we’re getting good at getting it back,”

Thanks to the walkers of Anglesey and the rest of Wales, the number of sites in the country containing these tiny plants has doubled in the last 13 years, and hopefully will continue to flourish into the future.