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Initially, I doubted my identification of this plant – I’d seen it growing in clumps in the waters of Cosmeston Country Park’s west lake, so how could this be the same plant growing in a section of meadow, albeit a damp area where reeds are abundant?

200903 amphibious bistort (1)

The Great crested grebes like to park themselves amongst the plant, perhaps to stop them drifting while they snooze.

The clue, of course, is in its name: amphibious, ‘relating to, living in, or suited for both land and water’ (Oxford Dictionary). Amphibious bistort (Persicaria amphibia) has two forms, one that resembles a water lily, floating its leaves upon the water surface, and another that lives quite happily on land that can be quite a distance from water, as long as that land is moist.

200903 amphibious bistort (2)

This second type also shows the somewhat more elongated leaves that its generic name refers to – persicaria ‘relates the shape of leaves of this group of plants to those of a peach tree’ (First Nature) – and the land-based form has hairy leaves, which the water-growing form does not. To clinch the identification, my book (The Wild Flower Key) says to look for two stigmas in most flowers, which Amphibious bistort has but similar species do not. And very pretty flowers they are too!