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Rare violet is re-discovered at Wicken Fen nature reserve

By Cambridge News  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

The fen violet. Picture by Carol Laidlaw.

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A rare flower has been found growing at a Cambridgeshire nature reserve following an absence of more than a decade.

The fen violet (Viola Persicifolia), which is renowned as being one of the country’s most elusive native violet species, has been re-discovered at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen.

It is a tiny plant growing to a maximum of 25-30mm and has bluish-white flowers with a mother-of-pearl sheen.

The endangered species is on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and is known to exist in the wild at only three sites in the country, including Wicken Fen.

“It is fantastic to see the fen violet again at Wicken Fen,” said the reserve’s countryside manager, Martin Lester.

“It cements the important role Wicken Fen and the Wicken Fen Vision project has in international conservation, protecting and creating new habitats for endangered species.”

The plant likes a wetland habitat with alkaline water. Seeds can lie dormant in the ground for many years and will only begin to grow when the ground has been disturbed and the weather conditions are right.

Previously, the violet was re-discovered at Wicken in the 1980s following an absence of 30 years, only to disappear again at the turn of the century.

Habitat loss along with the effects of drainage, ploughing, and lack of management on many of its former sites have all had a major part in the dramatic decline of the species.

The fen violet was re-discovered at Wicken Fen during a botanical survey undertaken on Monday, May 19.

Launched in 1999, the Wicken Fen Vision is a 100-year project by the National Trust to create a 5,300 hectare nature reserve stretching from Wicken Fen to the outskirts of Cambridge.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wickenfen for more information.

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