Author: Suse Coon

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Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 at 7:03 pm
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Inveresk Staff go into Battle with Water Soldiers

Musselburgh is not usually the place you would expect to see amphibious combat take place, but that is exactly what happened last weekend as the National Trust for Scotland’s conservation staff were faced with a challenge in controlling an invasive water plant at Inveresk Lodge Garden, near Musselburgh.

The plant in question, Stratiotes aloides, also called Water Soldier, is a native species and has thrived in the property’s pond to such an extent that over the summer it colonised the entire surface.  This made it very difficult for other plants and creatures to use the pond.

Staff initially donned their waders, armed with rakes, to pull in and remove the plants, but found the water too deep to clear the plant from the pond centre. The solution was a borrowed dinghy and an intrepid property manager, Louise Arnot.

Water Soldier is a native plant that  floats to the surface in summer to flower. In the Autumn, the leaves produce a slimy secretion and the plant sinks to the bottom of the pond where it remains during the cold weather.

Its structure and appearance is very similar to some succulent plants and bromeliads. The plant grows in a rosette with 1″ wide tapering leaves which can reach a length of 9″. Young plants are produced from the centre of the rosette on runners, while the centre of the plant produces long, white roots, similar to the houseplant commonly known as the Spider Plant. These roots and also the rosette of the plant itself form safe havens for fry and small fish to live in as well as insects but whilst it is good for wildlife, it can sometimes take over a pond and does need occasional clearance where this happens.

 

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