Native Aquatic Plants of Britain

Native Aquatic Plants of Britain

One of the things we have plenty of and contribute to our rich green isles, is rainfall.  Plenty of rainfall means plenty of wet habitats for our wildlife forming lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, bogs, marshes and woodland swamps.  Wherever you find fresh water, you will also find plants.  This aquatic eco-system is beneficial to all British wildlife in return creates an even bigger diverse eco-system.  Native Aquatic plants have also adapted to our man made ditches and canals.  There are thousands of British Aquatic plants and they are diverse in size and type.  Known in nature as ‘Aquatic Weeds’ and or ‘Pond Weeds’, some of these plants are used commercially and sold to recreate wildlife water gardens.  Some spend their lives underwater fully submerged whilst others are naturally Terrestrial (Semi-Aquatic) and have adapted over the years to cope with drought and flooding.


Submerged Species

There are hundreds of Submerged Aquatic Pond Weeds known in the trade as ‘Oxygenating’ and or ‘Deep Water plants’.  This group include the ‘Potomogeton Species’ (Pond Weeds), of which ‘Potomogeton Crispus’ (Curled Pond Weed), is used as a very popular oxygenating plant.  Other varieties also used are ‘Callitriche Species’ (Starwort) and ‘Ranunculus Aquatilis’ (Water Crowfoot) which looks stunning with its mass of white flowers that cover the water surface.



Bogs are made up of dead Sphagnum Moss and are therefore very acidic and not rich in nutrients, and for that reason, they are home to many Carnivorous plants.  Sometimes referred to as ‘True Bog-Plants’, and are home to many Aquatic Grasses and Sedges as well as ‘Anagalis Tenella’ (Bog Pimpernel) and ‘Calla Palustris’ (Bog-Arum) which both creep amongst the damp moss.  However, they will also adapt and grow on the edge of mossy streams and ditches.


Woodland Swamps

Home to ‘Carex Pendula’ (weeping sedge), and found abundantly throughout Britain, this plant  makes an excellent marginal plant for coverage around man-made lakes.  You can also find in our damp and flooded woodlands, thousands of ‘Ranunculus Ficaria’ (Lesser Celandine).  Making a carpet of yellow flowers in the spring, ‘Caltha Palustris’ (King Cups and or Marsh Marigolds) also favour these conditions and have steadily grown into one of the most popular, Marginal plants sold for use around ponds, lakes and almost anywhere that is damp.




Some of our Native Aquatic plants are quite rare and can only be found in isolated places.  Many of the Pond Weeds fall into this category such as ‘Valerian Officinalis’ (Marsh Valerian) for example, which seems to favour Scottish Highlands, while taller plants like ‘Eupatorium Canibinum’ (Hemp Agrimony), can be found growing in the flood plains of rivers and streams.  A particular species known as ‘Butomus Umbelatus’ (Flowering Rush), will only grow in fresh water where as ‘Typha Species’ (Reed Mace) are more abundant and can also be found growing in salt water marshes. Other aquatic  plants have a wider distribution and can be found growing all over the British isles and these include ‘Iris Pseudacorus’ (Yellow Flag),  ‘Mentha Aquatica’ (Water Mint), Hydrocotyl Vulgaris’ (Penny Wort) and ‘Filipendula Ulmaria’ (Meadow Sweet).  ‘Cardamine Pratensis’ (Cuckoo Flower), grows almost anywhere that is damp but loves marshy grassland. All the above plants are widely sold and used throughout the water-gardening industry.



We have plenty of rivers in the British isles and they are home to some very robust plants that can take a battering from regular flooding, One such aquatic plant ‘Nuphar Luteum’ (Brandy Bottle), is very popular as it has leaves similar to a Water Lily and attractive yellow butter-cup flowers that stand out of the water.  This plant is very adaptable and can also be found growing in clay bottomed ponds and lakes.


Phragmites Australis (Norfolk Rush)

The name of this particular plant seems to give its wide diversity and distribution away as this plant, covers almost all of the Norfolk Broads.  This tall growing, marginal rush has many uses and various parts are edible and can be used in cuisine.  However, its main use is as a natural filtration plant in Reed Beds, known as Phyto-Filtration.



Marshes can be found in every county of Britain and Ireland, and they are home to hundreds of aquatic plants.  The following plants make excellent Marginal and Bog-Garden plants for wildlife and ornamental ponds – ‘Geum Rivale’ (Water Avens), ‘Lychnis Flos Cuculi’ (Ragged Robin), ‘Stachys Palustris’ (Marsh Woundwort), ‘Veronica Becabunga’ (Brooklime) and ‘Myasotis Palustris’ (Water Forget-Me-Not).



All British wildlife relies on water, and adding water to your garden can attract Reptiles, Amphibians, Mammals, Birds and Insects giving you nature on your doorstep.  Coots and Moorhens will nest amongst rushes, whereas Grass Snakes will swim in the water looking for frogs as a tasty meal. Amphibians will breed in the water and spend the rest of the spring and summer living in surrounding areas and mammals will drink water and nest amongst the Grasses and Bog-Garden plants.  You can also attract numerous insects and butterflies, for example the ‘Potentilla Palustris’ (Marsh Cinquefoil), will attract hundreds of honey and wild bumble bees and another plant species known as ‘Succisa Pratensis’ (Devils Bit Scabious), will be welcomed by the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly as this plant provides food for its larvae.

In this blog I have only mentioned a small amount of the different varieties of our Native Aquatic Plants that will encourage a wide spectrum of wildlife into your garden, however, there are many more available and ready to purchase from our retail nursery or online from our website.



Please visit our website to see our full range of UK native pond plants available to buy online and from our retail nursery in Surrey