Sunday 20 October 2013

Botanising together sharpens all our skills...  

Flora (3rd from left) joined us in the field...
Image: L. Marsh 
Delighted to hear from Flora Donald about the new South Uist botany group: six people attended the first meeting to look at vascular plants. Flora thinks they will switch to looking at bryophytes and/or fungi during winter "while the plants are a bit less exciting, although I'm sure we'll still be on the lookout for interesting plants and perhaps doing some vegetative ID to keep our skills ticking over" but she intends to turn back to plants next spring. 

The VC55 group does something similar, although our vascular plant recording season lasts much longer than in the Hebrides, but we also switch to bryophytes and lichens, as well as conifers and ferns. 

This stops our ID skills from rusting up completely over the winter, and makes sure we get away from the computer and out in the field together occasionally! The prospect of a warm tea-room or pub, where we can catch up with the latest botanical gossip once the light fades, keeps us focused on recording while out in the field for a few hours. 

Bearing in mind the later season in the Hebrides, Flora says "Paul [Smith - images on left] has sent us some tetrads to focus on - we will probably start on them in the late spring/summer next year so as to do them justice! 

"It's really great to be involved - I think most of us had done a bit of recording in our spare time, but going out with a group is more enjoyable and a better way to learn! We've got a nice spread of abilities and special interests so far too, so we can all learn from each other."

Paul Smith and friends, recording in the Outer Hebrides
Image: L. Gravestock
I agree with Flora that going out with your local botany group is the best way to learn about the plants in your area, and so does BSBI President Ian Denholm

Click here to see the video of Ian at Birdfair in August, explaining how local groups can help people get started with plant identification and recording and "build up from that to contributing to the scheme at a national level." And hear Alyson Freeman talk about the new North Northants botany group, which aims to attract beginners "but also experts, who can hold their hand and help them to learn about the wild plants in their area." 

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