Plants for your wildlife pond

Previously we covered the basics of wildlife ponds and their importance in gardens. To expand on our pond series we will be looking at native UK water plants which can be perfect for your pond. Choosing water plants can be tricky, but makes all the difference to water levels, oxygen levels, nutrient balance, soil erosion and managing weeds/algae build up.

Invasive plants can pose a serious danger to native plant populations, wildlife and habitats. As responsible gardeners/environmentalists it is our responsibility to choose plants wisely.

Invasive plants to avoid

Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s-feather)

This invasive species may also be sold in garden centres under the names Myriophyllum brasiliense, Myriophyllum proserpinacoides, or Brazilian Water-milfoil. M. aquaticum poses a risk by blocking/clogging local water ways/drainage channels while varying the oxygen level and cutting out light.

Habitat: Ponds, lakes, ditches
pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Flowers between June to July producing hermaphrodite  flowers which are wind pollinated.
Edible parts: Roots (raw or cooked)
Sun: Full sun

Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s-feather) 800x800px

Ludwigia grandiflora, L. hexapetala (Water Primrose)

Ludwigia grandiflora

This highly invasive species originates from South/Central America, and has become one of the most damaging non-native water plants in Europe since its introduction to France in 1830.

Ludwigia grandiflora can sometimes be found growing in dense almost impenetrable mats, which crowd out native species and radically change chemical/oxygen properties along with clogging water ways/overflow systems.

Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (Floating/Water Pennywort)

Hydrocotyle_ranunculoides (Water Pennywort)

Hydrocotyle ranunculoides is a new invasive species within Britain and Europe, which has been spreading since 1990 from its native origins of America. H.ranunculoides was sold as an ornamental plant in many garden centres and since its sale within the UK it has spread to numerous waterways all round the country.

H.ranunculoides forms dense mats which block light from penetrating deep into bodies of water, this kills off submerged species and lowers the oxygen content.

Crassula helmsii (New Zealand Pigmyweed, Australian Swamp-stonecrop)

Crassula helmsii (Swamp Weed)

This aquatic/semi-terrestrial species is native to Australia/New Zealand and was the first aquatic plant to be banned from sale within the UK in 2014.

Crassula helmsii is very vigorous and does not die back over winter, growing in muddy margins or semi/fully submerged in water, forming dense mats which exclude light.

Native UK plants for your pond

Potomageton crispus (Curled Pondweed)

Potomageton crispus (Curly Pondweed)
Potomageton crispus (Curly Pondweed)
Habitat: Lakes, ponds, streams, canals (fresh & salt water)
pH: Alkaline, neutral
Description: Potomageton crispus is a fast growing perennial which flowers between May to October
Edible parts: Young leaves (cooked)/roots
Sun: Full sun

Pilularia globulifera (Pepper Grass)

Pilularia globulifera

Habitat: Edges of lakes/ponds/ditches/marshes
pH: Prefers slightly acidic conditions (pH 6)
Description: Pilularia globulifera is a fern species which can be grown in bog gardens or in water up to 30 cm deep. Sadly P.globuliferais is listed as near threatened and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Eleocharis acicularis (Hair Grass)

Habitat: Wet meadows, muddy margins, ponds and bogs
pH: Acidic, alkaline (prefers  pH ranging from 5.5 – 7)
Description: Eleocharis acicularis forms a dense mat in water up to 30cm deep, which helps to prevent soil erosion. Long grass-like stems grow up to 15 cm in length, but are shorter in more bog-like conditions.
Propagation: E. acicularis forms runners branching off from the main root area which form large clumps, cuttings can be taken from this clump and replanted.
Sun: Semi shade/full sun

Ceratophyllum demersum (Hornwort)

Ceratophyllum demersum

Habitat: Stagnant/slow moving water (floating), bog gardens
pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Ceratophyllum demersum is a fast growing aquatic species producing stems which can grow to 1 metre in length with fluffy leaves that are great hiding places for small fish.
Edible parts: Leaves from C. demersum are edible.
Sun: Full sun/part shade

Callitriche hermaphroditica (Water Starwort)

Callitriche hermaphroditica (Water starwort)

Habitat: Ponds/lakes
Water pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Callitriche hermaphroditica is an evergreen perennial which can grow up to 0.3 metres and is in leaf from January and produces flowers from May to September.
Edible parts: No known edible uses
Sun: Full sun

Hottonia palustris (Water Violet)

Hottonia palustris Inflorescence (Water Violet)

Habitat: Ditches/ponds
Water pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Hottonia palustris is a fast growing perennial which can grow up to 0.9 metres, hardy to UK zone 6 and flowers from May to June.
Edible parts: No known edible parts
Sun: Full sun

Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort)

Hydrocotyle vulgaris

Habitat: Marshes, fens and bogs
Water pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Hardy to zone (UK) 6, Hydrocotyle vulgaris is a fast growing perennial which can grow up to 0.1 metre in height and half a metre wide, flowering between June to August.
Sun: Full sun/part shade

Myriophyllum spicatum (Spiked Water Milfoil)

Myriophyllum spicatum (Spiked water Milfoil)

Habitat: Ditches, lakes & ponds
Water pH: Acid, alkaline, neutral
Description: Hardy to zone (UK) 6 Myriophyllum spicatum is a perennial which flowers from June to July.
Edible parts: North American Indian tribes relished the sweet/crunchy roots of M. spicatum.
Sun:  Full sun

Ranunculus hederaceous (Ivy Leaved Water Crowfoot)

Habitat:  Still or running water
Water pH:  Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Description:  Ranunculus hederaceous is a fast growing, oxygenating, prolific deciduous aquatic plant native to the UK. Apex leaves float on the waters surface and produce white flowers on stems emerging from the waters surface.
Edible parts:  No known edible parts
Propogation:  Full sun/part shade

Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s Tail)

Habitat:  Margin of ponds and ditches
Water pH:  Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Description:  Hippuris vulgaris is a perennial which can grow up to 0.5 meters, flowering between June and July.
Edible parts:  Young shoots and leaves which are best harvested between Autumn and Spring.
Sun:  Full sun

Ranunculus aquatilis (Water Crowfoot)

Habitat:  Streams, pond and ditches
Water pH:  Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Description:  Hardy to zone (UK) 5, Ranunculus aquatilis is a perennial/annual which is not frost tender and flowers between May to June.
Edible parts:  All parts of Ranunculus aquatilis are toxic.
Sun:  Full sun/part shade

Nymphaea alba (White Water Lily)

Nymphaea alba (White water lily)

Habitat:  Ponds
Water pH:  Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Description:  Nymphaea alba is a perennial, hardy to zone (UK) 5 and flowers between July to August.
Edible parts:  Contains toxic alkaloids
Sun:  Full sun

Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (Frogbit)

Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (Frogbit)

Habitat:  Ponds
Water pH:  Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Description: Hydrocharis morsus-ranae is a delightful perennial which brings some great spring/summer interest to your pond, whilst being beneficial for pollinators.
Flowering between June and August with small white flowers and leaves which float on the water surface but disappear bellow the water during winter.
Edible parts:  No known edible parts
Sun:  Full sun/part shade