Thursday, 10 November 2022

Reconnecting: November blog from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was checking churchyards for interesting fungi and was getting ready for some big changes. Here's Lynne's latest report: 

"Wet and windy weather recently and that has encouraged people to meet again indoors at several excellent events for botanists to gather and reconnect. In late October, a Recorders’ Meeting was held at FSC Preston Montford near Shrewsbury, at which botanists from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales came together to discuss topics, try and identify the more critical groups such as Cotoneaster (image on right), and generally catch up with each other - splendid. We also fitted in field trips and our group investigated four churchyards, one of which had the Darwin family grave in it, plus several interesting waxcap fungi.

Jim and his dog Rannoch
Image courtesy of S. Drysdale

At the beginning of November, I was at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, for the Scottish Botanists’ Conference, which was also well-attended. Workshops, talks, exhibits, herbarium tour and discussions took place. It was a special occasion too, to mark the retirement of Jim McIntosh (image on left), who has been our Scottish Officer for the past 18 years. A packed programme kept us all busy but there was time, just, to chat to people you had not seen for several years, in between the arranged events. I always run out of time to meet all the people I would like to have chatted to, but did manage to catch up with some ‘old’ acquaintances and meet some new members and local botanists. Most of the talks have been recorded so you will be able to view them in future on our YouTube channel

So now I enter my final stint as President and will be attending the British and Irish Botanical Conference at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 19th November, despite there being no trains from Oxenholme to London, so I will be coming by a devious route and driving most of the way. December will be my last blogpost before handing over to incoming President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

Thursday, 13 October 2022

End of a season: October blog from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Comma on Bramble
Image: L. Farrell
Last month saw BSBI President Lynne Farrell in the Outer Hebrides, looking at some of our tiniest plants and spreading the botanical word to passers-by. This month, as the season turns, she is back in Cumbria - here is her latest report:  

"Now we are well into autumn with leaves falling and blowing around. Most of the flowering plants are fading, although producing fruit, and soon it will be time for another group or even kingdom to take their place. 

"Changes are taking place in the BSBI also, with Jim McIntosh, Scottish Officer, retiring and Matt Harding replacing him, and James Harding-Morris becoming our Countries Support Manager. We welcome the ‘new’ and also appreciate the ‘old’. Soon it will be time for me to stand down too and hand over the presidency to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

"Before that, I’ve been grovelling in churchyards, although not quite with one foot in the grave yet. These areas do have good fungi and are often old, mature grassland, which are not mowed frequently, and as a result can support a variety of wild plants and fungi. 

Apricot Club Fungus in 
Hemingford Grey Churchyard,
Image: L. Farrell

"I've invited Caring For God’s Acre, the churchyard conservation group, to exhibit at our British and Irish Botanical Conference (the event formerly known as the Annual Exhibition Meeting) at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 19th November, an opportunity to meet fellow botanists again. I'll be giving a talk at the Conference called 'Plants, Conservation and Me'. 

"Before that, on Saturday 5th November, the Scottish Botanists’ Conference will take place at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. 

"I very much hope to see some of you at these meetings, as I have missed sharing plants with other ‘plantoholics’ over the past three years. Micheline will also be at the British and Irish Botanical Conference so it will be a chance for people to meet both the incoming and outgoing Presidents. This will be the first time in the Society's 196-year history that both the incoming and outgoing Presidents have been women. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 196 years for this to happen again!"

Many thanks to Lynne for this report, and if you'd like to catch up with her at one of our autumn events then please use the links above to book your space. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, 2 October 2022

BSBI membership: save money with our autumn special offer!

Tall herbs on Craig an Lochan
Image by BSBI member Sarah Watts
Last autumn, we launched our membership special offer by saying that 'in a rapidly changing world, our wild plants have never been more in need of the support, understanding and appreciation that BSBI is uniquely placed to provide'. Well frankly, that applies even more this year: we have never been more reliant on, and grateful for, the contributions of our fabulous volunteer members. 

So today we are inviting you to join our growing ranks, if you haven't already, and asking our members to help us spread the word about the benefits of BSBI membership - for you and for our wonderful wild flowers. 

So, at a time when we are all counting the pennies, why join BSBI?

First of all, if you join BSBI in October, your membership starts at once so you could enjoy up to 15 months of membership benefits for the price of 12 months. You wouldn't need to renew your membership until January 2024.

Yellow Monkswort
Image by BSBI member Simon Harrap

Secondly, we've expanded our range of membership benefits in the past year and there are even more in the pipeline. As well as the three issues each year of our membership newsletter BSBI News (check out the free sample issue and this article to give you an idea of the contents), membership brings you big discounts on BSBI Handbooks and other selected botany books, favoured status when applying for BSBI training and plant study grants, exclusive access to 100+ expert plant referees to help you with identification... Find out more here about all these long-standing benefits.    

This year, we also launched an environment-friendly paperless membership option; we revamped the password-protected members-only area of our website with a range of new resources, such as 100+ scientific papers free to download and a free pdf of one of our most sought-after out-of-print Handbooks; we offered members-only volunteering opportunities; and we launched two new awards for outstanding contributions to botany at local and national level. We will also be offering a whopping 50% discount to any member who wants to buy our third plant distribution atlas, due to be published in March 2023.

Narrow-leaved Helleborine
Image by BSBI member Patrick Marks

There is a third reason to consider joining us. Many of our 3,706 (as of today!) members carry out amazing work studying, recording, monitoring and helping to conserve wild plants across Britain and Ireland. But many others are simply happy to know that their subscription helps support our work to advance the understanding and appreciation of wild plants and to support their conservation across Britain and Ireland. Check out our nature conservation policy and our strategic plan to find out more, or leaf through our latest Annual Review to find out what the Society achieved last year thanks to our wonderful members.  

If you are already a BSBI member, we'd like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you for all that you do, and ask you to spread the word to friends and colleagues who you think might enjoy becoming a member - and don't forget that a gift membership of BSBI makes a great present for a loved one!

Our ranks are growing - an 11% increase compared to last October - so if you haven't yet joined us, why not head over here and become our next new member? We can't wait to welcome you and send you your membership welcome pack. Together we can keep working towards a world where wild plants thrive and are valued - and so are the thousands of BSBI botanists who support them.

Thursday, 29 September 2022

BSBI News: September issue published

We've just sent out copies of the latest issue of BSBI News to 3,706 of our members, who will be able to enjoy 88 pages of botanical delights in our membership newsletter. 

Electronic versions are already available on the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website (email me if you've forgotten your password) and the growing number of members who have opted for paperless membership received their digital copies a couple of hours ago.

But what if you haven't yet joined BSBI and you're wondering what's inside the latest issue and whether you'd enjoy receiving three copies each year of BSBI News

Take a look at our free sampler to get an idea of the content and you can also enjoy one full free article: four beautifully-illustrated pages by Mike Crewe on 'Getting to know the common thistles'.

Garlic Penny-cress in East Sussex:
a BSBI News article asks,
is it native or introduced there?
Image: M. Berry

Other articles in this latest issue include Howard Beck on Teesdale Violet; Richard Milne looking at Yellow Bird's-nest on brownfield sites in Scotland; a report summarising the results of the first three years of Plant Alert (the joint project between BSBI and Univ Coventry to discover which garden plants have the potential to become invasive and problematic in future); and over 20 pages of articles on Adventives and Aliens. 

There are also the usual book reviews, roundups of botanical news from across Britain and Ireland and advance notices of forthcoming BSBI events, such as the Atlas 2020 launch plans, the new Awards and updates about BSBI Referees.

Tucked inside each print copy of BSBI News (or in the same digital pack if you've gone paperless) are four other pieces of reading material: the latest BSBI Annual Review (which you can also download from the BSBI website here); invitations with programmes and booking links to the forthcoming Scottish Botanists' Conference and British & Irish Botanical Conference; and an agenda for the AGM.

Sea Pea in Pembrokeshire; a report
in BSBI News suggests it may have been
lost from this site (the only one in Wales)
Image: S. Evans

So, lots for members to enjoy and for supporters who haven't joined us yet, some tempting reading material in the form of the sampler and the free article about thistles - but if that entices you to want to join BSBI right now - don't do it! 

Yes, you heard that right - do not under any circumstances join BSBI today. Instead, wait just two more days because our membership special offer opens on 1st October and then you'll be able to enjoy 15 months of membership for the price of 12 months. 

Head back here on Saturday to read all about how you can take advantage of the special offer and to find out more about the many benefits of BSBI membership. Until then... enjoy that sampler and the free article   

Friday, 16 September 2022

Out on the islands: September report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was looking at restoration sites in Cambridgeshire, where she used to be based, and Cumbria where she is based now. 

But as well as being our President, Lynne is also BSBI County Recorder for Mid Ebudes, and last week she managed to visit her patch - here is her latest report:

"I’ve been out on my smaller islands recently, where the weather was superb- it makes a change, and makes the botanising enticing.

"Here are some of the plants I spotted:

"Irish Lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana (image on left) is one of our rarest and elusive species, but there is more chance of finding it in Ireland, of course! In Scotland it is scattered on some of the islands, with just a few locations on Ardnamurchan, on the mainland. It does occur in the same habitats each year but it would seem not in the exactly the same places, so you have to search diligently, and that is what we did with some success. 

"It is a part of the oceanic boreal-montane element widespread in N. America but restricted to Britain and Ireland in Europe. Old lazy beds, and cattle-grazed flushes near the sea are favoured spots. 

"Pipewort Eriocaulon aquaticum is also a member of the same botanical element, again restricted to Britain and Ireland and widespread in N. America. On the island of Coll this means a fairly lumpy walk into the ‘interior’ but eventually you reach one of the hidden lochans (image above right and at foot of page) and find it is flowering in late August and into September.

"There are other species which flower in the autumn and although they may be insignificant in size, they are worth close inspection. Muddy trackways, often by farm gates, and island lay-bys with wet gravel and a smattering of peat, are just the places to get down on your hands and knees, to find Chaffweed Anagallis minima/ Centunculus minima (image on right) and Allseed Radiola linoides

"This often attracts the attention of locals, and several times they enquired as to whether we needed help, assuming the car had broken down. Some were sufficiently interested to get out of their cars and join us, and what’s even more encouraging, was that they were pleased to learn about some of our smallest plants".

That's some great outreach work by our President, spreading the word about BSBI and botanical recording to all the islands, big and small, across Britain and Ireland!

Friday, 9 September 2022

British & Irish Botany: issue 4.3 published

Wood Vetch in the Cairngorms
Image: A. Amphlett
We've just published the third issue of the fourth volume of British & Irish Botany, featuring eight papers by authors across Britain and Ireland. 

We have two papers from Scotland.

Firstly, Andy Amphlett, BSBI County Recorder for Easterness, reviews the vascular plant flora of the Cairngorms Connect project area, Scotland, and consider some possible implications of forest expansion to the natural tree line.

Secondly, Sarah Watts, Ian Strachan & Richard Marriott report on remarkable botanical records from Corrour in Westerness, including the creeping form of Lesser Water-plantain (which they elevate to species status as Baldellia repens) and Coral-necklace Illecebrum verticillatum, both new to Scotland.

Baldellia repens at Corrour
Image: S. Watts
From Ireland, we have a detailed review by Tony Murray and Mike Wyse Jackson's of the history, status and conservation management of Cottonweed Achillea maritima at Lady’s Island Lake, Co. Wexford, while Eric Greenwood and Hugh McAllister explore the systematics and cytogenetics of Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis around northern Irish Sea coasts. 

Wales is represented too, with Tim Rich's account of the endemic Brecon Hawkweed Hieracium breconenseconfined to a single location in Craig-y-Ciliau National Nature Reserve in the Brecon Beacons. 

We also have three papers relevant to wild plants across the whole of Britain and Ireland. Firstly, Michael Braithwaite, our President from 2005 to 2008, reports on change in species distributions at tetrad scale – this is a supplement to the booklet Change in the British Flora 1987-2004, written by Michael with Bob Ellis and Chris Preston in 2006 and available from Summerfield Books here.

Brecon Hawkweed
Image: T. Rich

Next, Hugh McAllister and Andy Amphlett have teamed up to provide a definitive taxonomic treatment of the Tufted hair-grass Deschampsia cespitosa complex in Great Britain and Ireland.

Finally, we have a paper by Julian Shaw and colleagues at the Royal Horticultural Society describing a hybrid between the two species of Giant-rhubarbs Gunnera previously considered widespread in cultivation and proving invasive in some regions of Britain and Ireland. This previously overlooked hybrid is now considered to greatly outnumber one of the two parental species (G. manicata).

So, another fabulous issue here of our Open Access scientific journal, free for authors to publish in and for you to read - and we hope that there will be something of interest in this issue (as in all our back-issues) for every botanist across Britain and Ireland. 

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Restoration: August report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

In July, BSBI President Lynne Farrell was in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, but in recent weeks she has been back in the UK - here is Lynne's report for August: 

"Now that we have been able to resume normal activities and ‘restore’ ourselves by being out in the wider countryside, I have been to some old haunts and some new ones. 

"The old one was where I used to live in Hemingford Grey, Cambs., and I visited the Manor House by the River Ouse. This has a wonderful garden created over many years by Lucy Boston (author of the Greenknowe series of children’s books) and now cared for by her daughter-in-law, Diana, who has become more interested in native plants and is integrating them into the garden as a whole. One of the areas of lawn is now a patch of cornfield species (image on right).

"A new area for me was at Haweswater, Cumbs., where the RSPB are restoring the large site by using grazing by traditional breeds such as Belted Galloways and Highland cattle. Planting of native species grown from seed is also being undertaken and they have a large plant nursery, which needs three hours of watering each day, especially in the hot weather. Students and volunteers are kept busy with this activity and recording. 

"The cattle seemed to be as interested in the visiting BSBI botanists (image on right) as we were in recording the plants, but they soon returned their attention to the job of grazing the land. The best find of the day was Adder's-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, a new site record.

"The site manager, Lee Schofield, has written a book about the whole project entitled Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Farm. The title itself indicates part of the story. 

"I find the mixture of familiar and new a good way to restore myself too".