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Adder’s Tongue Spearwort

Ranunculus ophioglossifolius

How to spot it

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is a pretty plant with small, bright yellow buttercup-like flowers. The leaves are pointed oval, quite unlike ordinary buttercup leaves. When submerged, the pale greenish-yellow leaves float to the surface like small water-lily leaves.

Where to spot it

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort can be found in wet or marshy places, often round the edges of field ponds. It prospers at the edge of cattle ponds in the churned-up mud. It’s a sensitive plant, requiring low competition, low water levels in summer, and plenty of rain in early winter.

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is now found at only two sites in Gloucestershire, having previously grown in several parts of southern England. With human intervention, a sizeable population of plants flower and fruit every year.

How’s it doing?

Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is classified as Vulnerable and protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, perhaps unsurprising given its exceedingly picky requirements.

It is mainly threatened by loss of grazing on pastures and commons, loss of muddy ponds, or overgrazing and excessive trampling too early in the year. Climate change with drier winters also causes drying out of small ponds. Without a mild, frost-free Autumn and enough rain to keep the ground moist for seedlings to develop, they can be uprooted by birds or killed by trampling livestock.

Things you might not know

  • The Latin name Ranunculus means ‘froglike’, referring to the plant’s preference for aquatic habitats.
  • The specific part of the scientific name, ophioglossifolius refers to the shape of the leaves that resemble the small fern Ophioglossum.
  • Adder’s Tongue Spearwort is at the northern edge of its range in Britain.
  • The two sites where it can be found in Gloucestershire are Badgeworth (hence its alternative name: the Badgeworth Buttercup) and Inglestone Common.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Brooklime

Veronica beccabunga

How to spot it

Brooklime has delicate blue flowers held on fleshy stems, often forming lush clumps near water. The spikes of pretty blue flowers ascending in pairs from the leaf base are a clue that this plant is a member of the Speedwell family. Brooklime is a perennial sprawling herb with a dense mass of succulent leaves. Like many water plants, it has hollow stems which help to transfer oxygen to the roots.

Where to spot it

It grows at the waterline of riverbanks and in wet meadows, marshes, ponds, streams and ditches. It is found throughout the UK except in the Scottish Highlands.

How’s it doing?

Brooklime is doing well in its preferred habitats.

Things you might not know

  • Brooklime was used as a salad plant in much of northern Europe in the past.
  • It used to be eaten with watercress and oranges to help prevent scurvy.
  • Although edible, the leaves are bitter and the same precautions should be taken with them, as with watercress, in order to avoid liver fluke.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Branched Bur-reed

Sparganium erectum

How to spot it

Branched Bur-reed is a quirky looking waterside plant with spherical flowers. It might occasionally be mistaken for its unbranched relative (appropriately named ‘Unbranched Bur-reed’) but little else. Branched Bur-reed is a tall plant with linear leaves that lie broadside on to stem. The smaller male flowers sit above the female flowers on the stem.

Where to spot it

This wild plant is widespread around the UK, growing by waters edge, ponds, slow rivers, marshy ground and ditches. Branched Bur-reed is an easily uprooted plant and so prefers slower waters.

How’s it doing?

Branched Bur-reed is commonly found in its preferred habitats.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum