The plants were discovered last year during monitoring of the banks of a newly created stretch of the River Frome in Gloucestershire. Five hundred metres of new river channel had been engineered, allowing an aqueduct carrying the river across railway lines to be raised.
APEM botanist, Damien Hicks, said: “While we were surveying the newly established vegetation on the riverbanks last summer we found three examples of awned canary-grass, which represents a new geographical record for this species and an intriguing addition to the natural colonisation process at the site.
“This annual species from the Mediterranean is uncommon and probably under-recorded in Britain. Records of it have been confined to England, where it is scattered in the south and east, usually on arable land, waste ground and tips.
“It most likely colonised this site from adjacent arable farmland while the vegetation was still getting established.”
APEM was working with Windrush AEC on the project for Bam Nuttall, which carried out the engineering project on behalf of Network Rail.
After the course of the river had been changed to allow the aqueduct to be raised, the new riverbanks were planted with 150 alder saplings and sown with a mix of riverine seeds from a local supplier in Somerset. Plants included meadowsweet, yellow flag iris and wild angelica.
In summer over 900 native plants were also set on both riverbanks, including water mint, water forget-me-not and marsh marigold.
Summer and autumn saw trees and branches installed in the river at 14 carefully selected locations. Known as ‘large woody debris’, these aim to mimic the natural development of the river and create a variety of habitats.
Ongoing monitoring of the riverbanks will show how both the sown and colonising vegetation is developing, providing vital information for future river restoration strategies.
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