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1. Mudwort (16 October 2009)
rare... very small... found on mud beds... lower shore


Location:  Mountallen, Roscommon shore of Lough Allen




Got a phone call today from Tommy Earley at  Mountallen, to say that the water level in Lough Allen had gone down quite considerably, and that the Mudwort were in flower! After a Summer of frustration and high water levels, and the disappointment of not seeing Lough Allen’s Orchids flourish as they had done the previous Summer, this was great news. Time to get out the cameras and rush over to see these rare plants, albeit not as rare or as magnificent as the Irish Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana).

Mudwort (Limosella aquatica) is a tiny plant which grows, as the name suggests, in muddy areas on edges of lakes and wet areas. Because of its small size (none of the plants we saw seemed to be more than about 25mm) it is very easily overlooked. In fact, were it not for the ‘flags’ that Tommy had put next to a couple of specimens, we would have had trouble finding them at all. They were growing at the  edge of the Spiranthes plot at Tommy’s farm.

It is an uncommon to rare plant, found in the south, south west and west of  Ireland, along river, lake and pond margins. It occurs in nutrient rich, mildly acidic waterside mud and shingle. It is a native plant,  flowering from July to October. As it only appeared around October 16th (when water levels on the lake dropped), it had only a short period of time to flower and reproduce. Up to that time, and right through the Summer, the water levels on  Lough Allen were extremely high and  this area where the Mudwort occurs was under several feet of water. It is strange to think how ‘land plants’ can survive under such conditions. The Orchid, in particular, may survive many years without flowering, only coming to life when the conditions are right for it. The Mudwort plants had dried out, produced leaves and runners and were starting to flower, all within one week of the water receding. Only to be drowned again within another week?

In Lough Allen, Mudwort is found on the  Mountallen shore and also Annagh Marsh, on the north east side of the lake. It’s a prostrate plant, with spear-shaped leaves, arising from a basal rosette. The tiny flowers, pinkish white and bell-shaped, are only about 2 - 4 mm, and are found at the base of the leaves. Mudwort has creeping runners (see picture) which, once our eyes got used to the small size of the plants, were quite evident snaking out through the mud.








Mudwort showing Runners and emerging flowers.


Once we had found the specimens that Tommy had flagged, we began to see other specimens along a small  stretch of shoreline. Luckily enough, it was a beautiful day, and the sunshine meant that the flowers were fully open. It would have been extremely difficult to see the plants otherwise. We spent about two hours either kneeling or lying in the mud, taking photographs from every angle of various Mudwort plants. They are so small it is difficult to get down low enough to get the best pictures! A couple of days later,  the rains came, and the Mudwort were covered once more. But at least we  had our photographs, and hopefully, the plants had reproduced  successfully.

The Botanic gardens website describes  Mudwort as a ‘vulnerable, and protected (1999 Flora Protection Order) species'. (Vulnerable = Species that are currently not endangered, but would be extremely vulnerable if their habitats are  disturbed in the future.) It is also a Red Data Book (1988) species (NPWS). Genetic Heritage Ireland, stores seeds of Mudwort along with 52 other endangered species of plant in Trinity College, Dublin.  They regard it as such a rare plant.








Where they grow, along the shore at very low water.



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