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Shetland Pondweed

Potamogeton rutilus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Potamogetonaceae (Pondweed)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres long
Ditches, gardens, ponds, water.

Green, 4 petals
A small flower spike which consists of whorls of flowers.
A spherical fruit capsule containing the seeds.
Flattened, thread-like leaves. Similar to some other Pondweeds in the British Isles. Shetland Pondweed is a very rare species, most likely to be confused with Hairlike Pondweed (Potamogeton trichoides) but the leaves are even more sharp than those of Hairlike Pondweed. Found only in lochs and streams in Scotland.
Other Names:
Red Pondweed.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Potamogeton rutilus, also known as red pondweed, is a perennial aquatic plant that is native to North America. It is commonly found in freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. The leaves are long, thin, and typically float on the water's surface, they are lanceolate in shape, with smooth edges. The stems are long, thin, and anchored to the bottom by rhizomes. The leaves and stems have a reddish coloration. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, and arranged in spikes at the top of the stem. They typically bloom in late spring to early summer. It is an important food source for waterfowl and aquatic animals, and it also provides cover and habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. It's considered a good oxygenator for the aquatic ecosystem and it's also used as an ornamental plant in water gardens and ponds.


Shetland Pondweed, scientifically known as Potamogeton rutilus, is an aquatic plant species that is endemic to the Shetland Islands in Scotland. It is a small, submerged plant that grows in shallow, still or slow-flowing water bodies, such as ponds, lochs, and ditches.

Physical Description

Shetland Pondweed is a small, green plant that grows up to 20 centimeters in length. The plant has a single, slender stem that bears several pairs of opposite, oval-shaped leaves. The leaves are usually 1-2 centimeters long and have a smooth texture. The plant also produces small, inconspicuous flowers that bloom above the water surface during the summer months.

Ecological Importance

Shetland Pondweed plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystem of the Shetland Islands. It provides a habitat for various aquatic animals, such as fish and invertebrates, and also serves as a food source for many of these animals. The plant also helps to stabilize the sediment in the water body, which in turn helps to reduce erosion and maintain water clarity.

Conservation Status

Shetland Pondweed is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The plant is only found in a few locations in the Shetland Islands, and its population is declining due to a variety of threats, including habitat loss, water pollution, and climate change.

Conservation Efforts

To protect the Shetland Pondweed, several conservation efforts are underway. The Scottish Natural Heritage, a government agency responsible for the conservation of Scotland's natural heritage, is working with local communities to monitor the plant's population and implement measures to protect its habitat. In addition, the agency is also conducting research to better understand the plant's ecology and biology.

Shetland Pondweed is a small but important plant species that plays a crucial role in the aquatic ecosystem of the Shetland Islands. Its population is currently under threat due to a variety of human activities, and efforts are underway to protect and conserve the plant. By protecting the Shetland Pondweed and its habitat, we can help to ensure the continued health and vitality of the aquatic ecosystem in the Shetland Islands.

More Information

Shetland Pondweed is also an important indicator species for the overall health of the aquatic ecosystem in the Shetland Islands. The presence or absence of the plant can provide valuable information about the water quality, nutrient levels, and overall ecological conditions of a water body.

The decline in the population of Shetland Pondweed is a cause for concern because it could lead to the loss of biodiversity in the Shetland Islands. As a keystone species, the plant provides an essential service to the ecosystem and its loss could have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem.

To protect the Shetland Pondweed, it is important to reduce the human activities that are causing its decline. This includes reducing water pollution, protecting wetlands and other important habitats, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is also important to promote the conservation of the plant through education and awareness-raising activities.

Another interesting fact about Shetland Pondweed is that it has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine for various ailments. The plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and its leaves and roots have been used to treat wounds, burns, and other skin conditions. However, it is important to note that the medicinal use of the plant should be approached with caution and under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Furthermore, the conservation of Shetland Pondweed is not only important for the plant itself, but also for the cultural and economic value that it holds for the local communities in the Shetland Islands. The plant is an important part of the traditional culture and heritage of the islands, and its decline could have negative impacts on the tourism and fishing industries, which depend on the unique biodiversity of the region.

In conclusion, the conservation of Shetland Pondweed is not only important for the ecological health of the Shetland Islands, but also for the cultural and economic well-being of the local communities. By working together to protect and conserve this important plant species, we can help to ensure the sustainability and resilience of the Shetland Islands for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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