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Victorian message in a bottle found in Madingley pond



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A plant species recorded for the first time at a recently restored pond in Madingley had germinated inside a Victorian bottle.

Water crowfoot germinating in an old Victorian bottle in Madingley, Cambridge Picture: Jilly McNaughton (48957932)
Water crowfoot germinating in an old Victorian bottle in Madingley, Cambridge Picture: Jilly McNaughton (48957932)

Water crowfoot was spotted by Jilly McNaughton, of Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) East, when she visited the pond to carry out some checks.

The pond was restored by FWAG East and the University of Cambridge, as part of Natural England’s district level licencing scheme, which aims to deliver compensation habitat for endangered great crested newts.

Jilly said: “I was thrilled to find this little water plant had germinated in the greenhouse-like conditions in several old bottles on the bank.

“It was also flowering in the water. This species has not been recorded at the pond before.

“The bottles looked to be very old, so the ‘message in the bottle’ is that seeds can survive for a long time in the seed bank in the bottom of ponds!

“It also tells us that restoring closed-canopy ponds to let in the light can increase biodiversity and benefit numerous species.

“Great crested newts lay their eggs in plants like this, so it’s fab that it’s thriving here now.”

Water crowfoot blooming in the pond in Madingley, Cambridge Picture: Jilly McNaughton (48957924)
Water crowfoot blooming in the pond in Madingley, Cambridge Picture: Jilly McNaughton (48957924)

Common water crowfoot is the commonest species in a large group of water plants that can be seen covering ponds, ditches and streams with mats of white flowers in spring and summer.

Water crowfoot is a member of the buttercup family, with white five-petalled flowers that have a yellow centre.

It can form mats in ponds, ditches and streams during spring and summer.

If you would like to create or restore a wildlife pond in Cambridgeshire, funding may be available to do so.

Get in touch with FWAG East or the Wildlife Trust BCN to find out more. Email jilly.mcnaughton@fwageast.org.uk or martin.baker@wildlifebcn.org.

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