The rare fen violet (Viola persicifolia) has been re-discovered at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire following an absence of more than a decade – it had last been seen in 2003.
The fen violet is probably the most elusive of our native violet species – a tiny plant growing to maximum of 25-30mm, it has bluish-white flowers with a mother-of-pearl sheen.
The endangered species is on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and is known to exist in the wild at only 3 sites in the country (including Wicken Fen).
The plant likes a wetland habitat with alkaline water. Seeds can lie dormant in the ground for many years and will only begin to grow when the ground has been disturbed and the weather conditions are right.
Previously the violet was re-discovered at Wicken in the 1980s following an absence of more than sixty years, only to disappear again at the turn of the century.
Habitat loss along with the effects of drainage, ploughing, and lack of management on many of its former sites have all had a major part in the dramatic decline of the species.
The fen violet was re-discovered during a botanical survey undertaken on Monday 19 May.
Martin Lester, Countryside Manager at Wicken Fen said: “It’s fantastic to see the fen violet again at Wicken Fen.”
“It was a moment of satisfaction, surprise, tinged with relief that we had found it again. This delicate wetland plant is clinging on to survival not just in this country but across Europe.
“No-one can really explain why it can disappear for long periods only to reappear decades later – let’s hope it says around for a few years this time.”
Other rare plants that can found at Wicken Fen include Marsh Pea, Marsh Fern, Fibrous Tussock Sedge, Round-fruited Rush, Milk Parsley; and three rare aquatic plant species – Flat-stalked Pondweed, Long-Stalked Pondweed and Whorled Water-Milfoil.
More than 8,500 species have been recorded at Wicken Fen making it the top site for wildlife in the care of the Trust.