Lesser Water-plantain

This pretty three-petalled plant can be found in the summer at the edges of water and in boggy puddles. Good places to look are Goonhilly, Windmill Farm and the Grochall Track down to Kynance.
Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Baldellia ranunculoides

Other common names: Creeping Water-plantain, Crowfoot-alisma

Conservation status: Vascular Plant Red List for Great Britain, Nationally threatened.

Lesser Water-plantain is a perennial member of the small Water-plantain family (Aslismataceae), a group of plants that, as the name suggests, are found in, or at the edge of, water. With its linear pointed leaves, curved stems and small (≤1.5cm) pinky-white flowers, Lesser Water-plantain is generally found in peaty calcareous habitats. It can often be found along the boggier trackways of the Lizard and seasonal ponds, as well as in waterbodies such as Ruan Pool: the flowering time is between June and August, although each individual plant only flowers for a short time.

A native of Europe and Mediterranean regions, Lesser Water-plantain has suffered from loss of suitable habitat (such as seasonal ponds being filled in, or loss of heathlands) and eutrophication. Its population is reasonably stable on The Lizard, where it benefits from the conservation management and the protection afforded by the National Nature Reserve and other areas managed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the National Trust.

There are two subspecies of Baldellia ranunduloides: ssp. repens and ssp. ranunculoides. It is the latter you will see on The Lizard.

Did you know…?

…The species name of ranunculoides is derived from the genus name for the Buttercup family (Ranunculus), because the fruithead of Lesser Water-plantain resembles that of a buttercup, although it is in a completely different family.

…Lesser Water-plantain smells of coriander when crushed.

More information and references:

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Stace, C., 2010. New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Published: August 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Amanda Scott