Swift action by the Angling Trust has hopefully saved waterways in South Yorkshire’s River Don catchment from becoming infested with an alien invader, floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides).
The plant, which was brought to Britain in the 1980s for tropical aquaria and garden ponds, was first noticed in the wild in Essex in 1991. Since then it has spread throughout the South and Midlands with devastating effects, covering the surface of waterways, blocking boat traffic and killing fish and other species. New plants can establish from small pieces of stems which break free from the parent and can grow at up to 20cm (8inches) per day, doubling the plant’s weight in as little as 3 days. This, together with a resistance to chemical control, makes elimination difficult once the plant has become established.
Fortunately reports from anglers of sightings throughout the Don and other canal systems in the region have enabled the Trust to highlight the problem to the Environment Agency who have begun mapping the plant's distribution this week and will shortly be taking action to limit its spread.
Mike Heylin, Chairman of the Angling Trust commented, “Angling Trust has been working with the Non Native Species secretariat for some time to develop policies to control invasive plants and animals. We are very pleased to be able to put that experience to practical use in defending our rivers from damaging plants. We appeal to all gardeners and pond keepers to keep non natives where they belong, in their gardens and ponds, and not risk the environment by letting them escape to the wild. Funds have recently been made available from Defra for management of these plants and we expect the Environment Agency will be using some of this money to remove the floating pennywort from the wild.
We hope that this, together with the urgent action of our members in notifying Angling Trust of the spread of this obnoxious plant, will enable the Agency to control and prevent it causing more problems in future, especially in rivers such as the Don in South Yorkshire.”