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Warning as aggressive fast-growing weed is spotted on the Broads

The Broads are a popular paddling venue with British Canoeing members and other paddlers coming from all over the country to enjoy the wildlife in the number of waterways it has to offer.

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Image credit GBNNSS

Unfortunately, the Broads Authority have identified  the highly invasive aquatic plant known as Floating pennywort in a number of areas in the Norfolk Broads. This aquatic weed that grows up to 20cm a day and can clog up streams and rivers.

The Broads Authority has asked river users to be on the lookout after floating pennywort was found on the River Ant, between Tonnage Bridge and Wayford Bridge, near Smallburgh.

The authority raised the alarm about the non-native and invasive species in October, and has now repeated its warning.

Broads Authority ecologist, Jonathan Cook, said the pennywort could end up becoming a major hazard if it is not brought under control.

Mr Cook said: “The pennywort was first spotted in late summer on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal between Honing Lock and Tonnage bridge, but we are uncertain as to how it entered the navigation.

“There’s also a patch at the confluence with the Hundred stream towards East Ruston.

“It is likely to extend up the stream as well as the surrounding dykes and ditches.

We are asking people in the area to help out by being on the lookout for the floating pennywort and if they spot it to ensure that they do not disturb it.

– Jonathan Cook, ​Broads Authority ecologist

The weed costs more than £25m across Europe every year to clear up and through lost tourism income.

Floating pennywort is such a successful invader that just a single fragment of it drifting downstream can soon dominate an expanse of water. It out-competes native aquatic plants, blocking out the light they need, leading to the loss of native plants and a sterile river ecosystem.

If the outbreak spreads further it will also affect tourism if dense mats of the plant grow thick enough to block river access for boaters and paddle sports. The plant - whose botanical name is hydrocotyle ranunculoides - has a stalk attached between lobes of a kidney shaped leaf.

Richard Atkinson, Policy Officer for British Canoeing said ‘if you are paddling these key areas or anywhere in the Norfolk Broads, please keep an eye out for this weed and report it. Please also ensure you Check, Clean and Dry your boat and equipment before you arrive and before you leave the Broads so the weed doesn’t spread further’

People are asked to report any sightings to the Norfolk Non-Native Species Initiative by emailing [email protected]

Remember, always CHECK, CLEAN, DRY.

Check your boat, board, paddle and kit for fragments or creatures that have used your kit to make a new home.

Clean your equipment by the side of the water you've just been paddling if you can.

Dry your kit thoroughly before going on another waterway. 

We all need to do our bit to stop the spread.