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Rare plant discovered

PUBLISHED: 20:07 23 July 2008 | UPDATED: 10:34 12 July 2010

A rare plant has been discovered for the first time at a renowned wildlife site on the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

The smooth-stalked sedge (carex laevigata) has been found at Market Weston Fen, along the Little Ouse - one of the finest valley fens in East Anglia.

A rare plant has been discovered for the first time at a renowned wildlife site on the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

The smooth-stalked sedge (carex laevigata) has been found at Market Weston Fen, along the Little Ouse - one of the finest valley fens in East Anglia. It is the first definite record of the species in Suffolk and has been hailed as a significant find for the region.

Andrew Excell, Suffolk Wildlife Trust's valley fen sites manager, said: “We are delighted to have found this new species, which was discovered during a routine plant survey in the recently acquired part of the fen.

“For the past two years we have been managing this wet area for wildlife by introducing restoration mowing and grazing with konik ponies, and this has undoubtedly supported the growth of a variety of sedge species, including the rare smooth-stalked sedge.”

With more than 250 flowering plants, 20 species of butterfly and 200 types of moth, the fen is a UK site of special scientific interest and a European special area of conservation. And, according to Martin Sanford, of Suffolk Biological Records Centre, the new record is a significant find for the region.

He said: “There is one site for smooth-stalked sedge in Norfolk and very few in Essex. It's very rare for this part of the world.

“Its distinguishing features include the presence of small red dots on the fruits which themselves are only a couple of millimetres in size.”

Mr Sanford said the plant had its stronghold in areas of acid and peaty soil in the northern part of the country where there was a lot more rainfall than in East Anglia.

Small wetlands such as Market Weston Fen are partic-ularly vulnerable to outside influences, especially impacts on water levels. As well as increasing the area of wildlife habitat, enlarging the nature reserve is helping to secure the site's hydrology and give the fen a more stable future.

In 2006, an appeal to buy 47 acres of the fen reached its target just two months after being launched.

As a result, Suffolk Wildlife Trust now owns and manages 91 acres of the unique 124-acre site.


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