Water germander (Teucrium scordium)

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Water germanders in flower
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Water germander fact file

Water germander description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderLamiales
FamilyLamiaceae
GenusTeucrium (1)

Water germander is similar in appearance to a mint (4), although the flowers are bigger (2). The leaves, which occur in opposite pairs on the stem (2), are covered in soft hairs and smell of garlic when crushed. The pinkish to purple flowers can reach up to 1cm in length, and are produced in small whorls(4).

Size
Height: 10-60 cm (2)
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Water germander biology

Water germander is a perennial plant that can spread by means of creeping runners, which can produce roots (3). The flowers appear from June through to October (4), and open habitat patches are needed for germination to occur (3), but flowering and seed production are often poor (1). It is pollinated by bees but may also self-fertilise (2). The plant does not seem to fare very well in particularly hot or dry years (3).

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Water germander range

This species was once known from over twenty sites in eastern and central England, but is now known from just 3 UK sites, two in Devon, and the other in Cambridgeshire (3) (1). Elsewhere, the species occurs throughout most of Europe, but is in decline in many countries (3). It is also known from Siberia and the Aral-Caspian area (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Water germander habitat

Occurs in a range of damp habitats such as dune-slacks, ditches, riverbanks (3), fens, ponds, turloughs (flat-bottomed lakes), lake margins (1) and pits on calcareous soil, typically in relatively open areas with short vegetation (3).

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Water germander status

Classified as Vulnerable in Great Britain, and fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3).

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Water germander threats

The main cause of the decline seems to be the widespread drainage of wet habitats and development that has occurred. Eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) resulting from agricultural run-off is known to seriously affect water germander (3). Scrub encroachment and shading also threaten the species (1).

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Water germander conservation

Water germander is fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to intentionally pick, uproot, destroy or sell the plant (3).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more on this species see the book: New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland, by Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A., Dines, T. D. (2002). Published by Oxford University Press, London.

Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:
http://www.bsbi.org.uk/

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Authentication

Information authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.

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Glossary

Calcareous
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
Dune slacks
Depressions between sand dunes that are often wet during the winter.
Eutrophication
Nutrient enrichment of aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems.
Fen
Wet peat, usually with alkaline water. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing free calcium carbonate).
Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Whorl
In animals, the spiral or convolutions in the shell of a snail. In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.
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References

  1. Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A., Dines, T. D. (2002) New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, London.
  2. Clapham, A. R., Tutin, T. G. & Warburg, E. F. (1961) Flora of the British Isles 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  3. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  4. Press, B. & Gibbons, B. (1993) Photographic field guide: Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe. New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., London.
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Image credit

Water germanders in flower  
Water germanders in flower

© Roy Anderson

Roy Anderson
roy.anderson@ntlworld.com

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