UK Red List Plant -5  Ribbon-leaved water plantain Alisima gramineum.  

Alisma gramineum plant.jpg

Image above Public domain courtesy of Gary Larson @ USDA-NRCS plants data base.


This is the fifth in the series which looks at the Red List Priority species of plants in the UK. Any plants that are featured on the Red list are priority species of conservation concern and as such a Priority Species Action Plan {SAP} has been formulated and currently being implemented on the species behalf to try and halt and eventually reverse the decline. Here we review the species Alisma gramineum the ribbon-leaved water plantain.

Description and habitat

The Ribbon-leaved water plantain also know as the Narrow-leaved water plantain and Grass-leaved water plantain grows in mud or submerged in fresh or brackish water in Marshy areas.

The leaves and tiny purple tinted flowers may be submersed or not. When the flowers grow under water they are ' cliestogamous' meaning they stay closed and self-pollinate. When they grow above the water they open. Leaves that occur above the water  are wide and stiff while those beneath the surface are ribbon-like hence the common name{s} for this plant .Succeeding the flowers are the fruits which are a ring of dry nutlets . They propagate by means of seed or from division of the root system.

They are a widespread species across temperate and subarctic of Asia and Europe and North Africa. It also occurs in most of Canada and western parts of the USA and New York, Vermont and Virginia.  In the UK it is endangered and protected. 

Flowers of Alisma gramineum. Image taken In Prague.

Courtesy of Karelj CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Alisma gramineum Prague 2013 3.jpg

Information and Conservation Issues UK.

In the UK the species is only found in England, where it is classed as a species of 'Principal importance to the conservation of biodiversity'. It occurs in 15 or fewer hectads in Great Britain.The plants are protected from intentional picking of the flowers, uprooting them, destruction selling or offering them for sale or even being found in possession of them under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 {as amended}.

In 2006 a survey of Cambridgeshire and Linconshire  discovered Alisma gramineum growing in both { approximately 10 and fifty + plants respectively}. Visits in 2004 and 2005 failed to find any plants in either of these sites. Management during the winter of 2005 at the Lincs site may have been instrumental in creating conditions which helped in the germination of seeds.

The Worcestershire  population continues to support about two hundred submerged plants {2006 estimate }. No surveys were undertaken in 2007-2008,however, a visit to the Cambridge site failed to find the species in 2007. Langmere is not considered suitable habitat at present and the plant has not been recorded here since 1972.

The populations of this species are known to fluctuate and intensive surveys need to be carried out  to estimate the plants problems. 

The Species Action Plan {SAP}.

The SAP, includes research/ survey and information. This includes ex-situ and reintroduction techniques. Reintroductions need to be informed by a better understanding of plant ecology and interactions with hydrological  processes this includes experimental introductions under controlled circumstances

2/ species and habitat management.-this involves looking at the water quality decline. Water quality issues at the Worcs site threaten the long term future of the largest and most stable population. This will need landscape -scale habitat restoration reinstatement of natural  processes combined with general water quality improvements.

3/ more research is needed. Although little new research has been undertaken since 2005 there has been some progress reviewing current knowledge,. A 2006 review and compilation of previous work {English Nature research report -675} as provided a useful summary of general knowledge and has indicated areas for future work. Planned re-introduction trials { with controlled hydrological conditions} have not taken place yet, but positive management at the Lincs and Worcs sites seem to have been successful suggesting that understanding is sufficient to make management recommendations. It is a generally held view that sustainable populations of the species in the UK will require landscape-scale wetland/river restoration .

It is clear from the study of European populations that the plant requires large-scale ecological  processes to facilitate spread and open habitat opportunities.Further work is needed to determine how plant metapopulations respond to hydrological processes this is applicable to many rare aquatic plant species and work is under way to review the current state of knowledge. Various landscape wetland restoration projects in Fenland may present further opportunities for further reintroduction trials.


For further information visit jncc.derfra.gov.uk/_speciespages/83.pdf

Alisma gramineum  growing in Prague 

Courtesy of Karelj  CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence

Alisma gramineum Prague 2013 1.jpg

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 In this series-

Red List UK plants -1 { Pheasant's eye}

Red List - Man Orchid.

Ground pine -UK-3 

UK-4 Lady's mantle 

Pyramidal bugle UK Red list 

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