As part of the enhancements to Victoria Park, both lakes were drained last year for restoration and desilting. East Lake has also been extended. During the summer, a lot of vegetation appeared on the bare mud and gravel, which had been underwater for years. Brian Wurzell, one of the country’s top botanists, was interested to see what plants had colonised the lake beds, so he got the Council’s permission to carry out a survey of both lakes. The surveys were carried out by Brian (see photo above) and the Council’s Biodiversity Officer, John Archer, on 22nd November.
The results were amazing. In just one summer, almost 150 species of plants had colonised the dry lake beds. These included some rare and unexpected species. The most surprising plant was a single specimen of Narrow-leaved Everlasting-pea in East Lake. This is a close relative of the everlasting pea which can be seen on railsides and waste ground all over London. However, unlike its common relative, Narrow-leaved Everlasting-pea is a native species, rather scarce in south-east England and usually associated with ancient woodlands. It has never been seen before in inner London, and we have no idea how it got to Victoria Park. It was clear that it wouldn’t survive where it was growing once the lake was refilled, so we dug it up, and it’s now in a pot in the Biodiversity Officer’s garden, awaiting replanting in a more suitable location in the park in the spring.
Slightly less surprising, but still a good find, were several plants of Marsh Dock (see photo left) on both lake beds. Wet mud is at least the right habitat for this nationally scarce species, and it is not uncommon further up the Lea Valley, but this is probably the fist Tower Hamlets record.
A number of uncommon non-native plants were also found. Perhaps most surprising were numerous seedlings of Pampas-grass in West Lake. This popular garden plant very rarely seeds itself in Britain. Also in and around West lake was a large population of Tall Nightshade (see photo left). A full report of the survey, written by Brian Wurzell, can be downloaded here.
Photos by John Archer