Wild Ground will carry out an exciting project to eradicate the invasive plant Crassula helmsii from their Johnstown nature reserves
thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Welsh Government through the Local Places for Nature Scheme.
Crassula is a highly invasive non-native plant species which was first recorded in the UK in the 1970s. It causes serious problems for native wildlife and habitats as once it is introduced to a pond it spreads rapidly to smother the entire pond if not controlled. This reduces the area of open water which animals such as great crested newts need for their breeding, it affects oxygen and light levels in ponds, it appears unsightly, and it can be hazardous as it appears to be a solid surface and disguises the water beneath it.
These problems often arise when well-meaning people see an apparently empty pond and move plants or animals in from other sites, but unfortunately this can spread both invasive species and diseases. Crassula can also be spread extremely easily on footwear, clothing or animal fur.
Crassula is present on the Stryt Las nature reserve and also in a smaller area on Aberderfyn nature reserve off Bangor Road, and the project will focus on these two sites, which are both home to the internationally important great crested newt.
Each year the Wrexham County Borough Council ranger team drains down the main lake on Stryt Las to remove hazardous litter and relocate fish which would eat the great crested newts, and this year the team are also supporting Wild Ground to drain down the large pond next to the main lake to enable this work on the Crassula to take place.
Over January to March the Wild Ground team will be clearing vegetation in and around the ponds, cutting back the thickest areas of Crassula and burying the cuttings where they cannot spread, and covering the entire pond in a black plastic liner to block out sunlight and kill off the remaining Crassula. When this liner is eventually removed, the rejuvenated pond will be revealed. There will also be a new information board installed on site.
Look out for the Wild Ground team on site over the next few months – they will be available to answer questions and chat about the project while the work takes place. There will also be regular updates and content on social media and on the Wild Ground website to keep the community informed and let people know how they can look after ponds for local wildlife.
Subject to Covid-19 restrictions, volunteer sessions also usually take place in Johnstown on Fridays with tasks such as litterpicking, dead-hedging and hedge planting – registration is essential but everyone is welcome to take part.
Paul Furnborough, Reserves Development Manager for Wild Ground, said: "Crassula is a very invasive plant which is already smothering our biggest pond, and if not controlled it will spread throughout the SSSI/SAC. It is incredibly pernicious and hard to kill so this sort of large-scale conservation work is both expensive and difficult, and couldn’t be achieved without practical support from the Wrexham Council Ranger team or our funders, or the goodwill and pride of residents in their local wild spaces.”