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‘Exceptionally rare’ plant accidentally unearthed by conservation group

PUBLISHED: 18:04 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:04 24 September 2020

Thetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation Group

Thetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation Group

TCG

An exceptionally rare plant has brought botany buffs flocking to Norfolk, after it was discovered in the southwest of the county.

Thetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation GroupThetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation Group

Conservationists in Thetford have happened upon a seldom seen plant called creeping marshwort in a seed bank in the Nun’s Bridge area of the town.

First spotted by a volunteer from the Thetford Conservation Group, the plant can only be seen in one other part of the country - and has been formally identified by the Breckland Flora Group, Plantlife and experts from both the National History Museum and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

So rare is the plant that it is a critically endangered species, meaning its leaves can not be removed by a person without a specific licence.

Mark Webster, of Thetford Town Council, said: “To have two such important national figures both standing in our scrape and almost jumping for joy over this find is just fantastic.

Thetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation GroupThetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation Group

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“We deliberately didn’t plant any wildflower seed in the newly-scraped area as we expected the bare ground to provide a good habitat for wildflowers to colonise naturally, but we could not possibly have hoped for such a brilliant result of this.”

The discovery is so groundbreaking that the BSBI has taken seeds from them to be planted in the Royal Botanic Gardens’ millennium seed bank at Kew in London.

It is believed that this is the first and only time this particular plant has been found in Norfolk, with the only other known home for them being in a set of meadows in Oxfordshire.

Thetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation GroupThetford Conservation Group volunteers have discovered an extremely rare plant called creeping marshwort at Nun's Bridge. Picture: Thetford Conservation Group

Terry Jermy, a county, district and town councillor in Thetford, said: “It is wonderful to have such a rare species in the centre of our town where people can easily see it.”

The area they have grown, a triangular patch of land near Nun’s Bridges car park, was previously dominated by tall weeds and nettles, but it is speculated that the scrape of the land carried out could have awoken dormant seeds beneath the surface.

The plant is only a few centimetres in width and low-growing, but with lack of competition has seen several hundred of them grow, scread across the area.


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