Safety fears over Fenland village pond which has become overgrown with illegal Parrot Feather plant

Parrot Feather pond weed at Elm village pond.Picture: Steve Williams.

Parrot Feather pond weed at Elm village pond.Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Parents fear for their children’s safety unless a thick covering of an illegal plant – banned from sale in the UK since April- is removed.

Parrot Feather pond weed at Elm village pond.Picture: Steve Williams.

Parrot Feather pond weed at Elm village pond.Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

The plant has spread to form a thick carpet of greenery over the village pond in Elm which many feel could give the appearance of being a grassed surface.

Villagers say they have been told that the Parrot Feather plant, which until five months ago was sold in pet shops for aquariums, got there by someone tipping goldfish into it.

Parrot Feather was banned as it is second only to Japanese knotweed for the way it takes hold and for being difficult to remove.

Resident Sharon McManus Girdlestone said: “It is the children of Elm that is a worry. If a little one fell in, don’t think you could get them out. I just don’t want anything to happen to anyone.

Elm Pond before the Parrot Feather plant took hold

Elm Pond before the Parrot Feather plant took hold - Credit: Archant


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“I can see an accident waiting to happen.”

John Brand, chairman of Elm Parish Council said: “It would be better filling it in so there is no more maintenance. At the moment a small child could fall in thinking it is a grassy area.”

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Another resident said: “Everyone locally knows it is a pond covered in plant stuff.

“However, if someone from out of town came to visit and let their children play in that area or walked their dog it could be a disaster.”

Cliff Carson, environment officer for Middle Level Commissioners, said it was the second site in the Fens that had fallen prey to it.

It is also dealing with a case in a drainage ditch in Foxglove Way, March, using herbicide spray.

He said: “You need to get at the roots. It is not good enough to simply spray the plant.

“In this case you would have to drain off the water in the pond to be able to get the herbicide spray on to the underside. It is not a good idea to clear the stuff manually as the plant is very brittle and the slightest, tiniest bit that breaks off can then be transferred to a new location on the wheels of a car or on someone’s footwear.

“I have seen goldfish in there so assume someone has tipped their aquarium in there.”

It usually takes a number of treatments to get rid of Parrot Feather - which could take up to a year to totally clear, he added.

A second non-native species plant, New Zealand pygmy weed, has also been seen at the pond, but this is easier to control using weevils specifically targeted to eat it, he said.

Building contractors Kier Construction is responsible for maintaining the site.

A Kier spokesman said: “We were unaware of the problem regarding Parrot’s Feather in the two ponds at this development. We will investigate fully and will instruct our landscape contractor to attend to and resolve the issue.”

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