Sowing the seeds to reintroduce rare plant
Archived press release
Date Published: 08/12/08
The true fox-sedge plant
A nationally rare plant is being reintroduced on the Upper River Ray on the Bucks/Oxon border in a project which aims to halt its disappearance.
Aylesbury Vale District Council and the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) will be planting hundreds of true fox-sedges along the river where only a small number are hanging on.
The Upper River Ray is one of only a handful of surviving British sites for the true fox-sedge, which is mainly found along the banks of wet ditches and in very wet hay meadows. The only other known sites are in Kent, Sussex and Gloucestershire.
The true fox-sedge flowers discretely and then fruits in June and July as hay meadows burst into bloom with wildflowers. Its disappearance locally and nationally has been caused by a number of factors including land drainage practices, wholesale clearance of ditches where it grows and the growth of tall vegetation shading its preferred sites.
As a result of local wildlife surveys carried out by BBOWT, a small, but important, population of true fox-sedge plants was discovered on the Upper River Ray in 2004 and 2005. This amazing discovery led to conservation work to look after these special rare plants.
AVDC and BBOWT enlisted the help of British Flora, a local specialist wildflower nursery, to gather seed from the plants and grow hundreds more. By autumn 2008 British Flora had successfully rooted and grown 600 true fox-sedge plants – that’s 50 times the current wild population in the area.
Aylesbury Vale Countryside Volunteers will help plant the true fox-sedges at BBOWT’s Gallows Bridge Farm (part of its set of nature reserves in the area) and other areas on the Upper River Ray. More true fox-sedges could be planted in other locations in future years.
Councillor David Thompson, AVDC Cabinet Member for Leisure, said: “This is a nationally important project which is being implemented in Aylesbury Vale. It demonstrates how through co-ordinated effort and determined, organised action, a species can be brought back from the brink of extinction. Let’s hope that in years to come we can report on the success of the project and true fox-sedge has become re-established in its natural home on the Upper River Ray.”
Arnaud Duranel, Wetlands Project Officer for BBOWT, said: “This is a very exciting project for a number of reasons. There are only 30 individual true fox-sedges left in the River Ray floodplain, and indeed in all Berks, Bucks and Oxon. If all the plants that we are planting survive, then we will have multiplied the true fox-sedge population in the area by as much as 50.
“We need to restore suitable sites along the watercourses for the species to take hold, as BBOWT has been doing in our Upper Ray Meadows Nature Reserve or on private land in partnership with several farmers and landowners. This project shows what can be achieved through partnership working, when several organisations with different expertises work together.”
For more information on the true fox-sedge project, phone AVDC on 01296 427972 or the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust on 01865 775476.
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Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust