Sunday, 13 October 2013

Gunnera tinctoria spreading on Benbecula.  

Machair at Howmore, South Uist
Image: L. Marsh
We have received some more photographs of Gunnera tinctoria becoming established in the north and west of these islands. 

Flora Donald, Operations Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage, based on South Uist in the Western Isles, sent these images (below) of G. tinctoria "spreading along both sides of a ditch in Kyles Flodda, Benbecula". Very much as in the images from the west of Ireland, which Ian Denholm used in his State of Nature presentation. 

We met Flora at last summer's Bioblitz on South Uist, and she came out recording a few days later with the BSBI's Outer Hebrides Recording Team, led by Paul Smith


Gunnera tinctoria on Benbecula
Image: F. Donald
Flora is a second generation botanist - her father is Duncan Donald, BSBI's county recorder for Wester Ross, vc105. She's had a busy few months on Uist, and tells me she has been "liaising with bodies like CnES, SEPA and the Fisheries Trust to gather information and advise on action to take involving problem species". 

Flora is currently working with the Outer Hebrides Biological Recording group - actually, we met Bill Neil, the Chair of OHBR, at the very same Bioblitz on South Uist in July: he and Paul had a serious chinwag about recording. Hardly surprising: as well as being county recorder for the Outer Hebrides (jointly with Richard Pankhurst, until Richard's sad death in March of this year), Paul also sits on BSBI's Records Committee and is a statistician in his day job. Give him half a chance to talk about plant recording and it's hard to drag him away!


Recording at the South Uist Bioblitz;
Flora on left, Paul on right.
Image: L. Marsh
Flora tells me that she and colleagues at SNH are working with Bill and OHBR to encourage people to report observations of the following invasive species: Rhododendron ponticum, Fallopia japonica, Acaena novae-zelandiae, Elodea spp. and Gunnera spp. "This is so we can map their distribution and start planning what action we might be able to take, based on the scale of the problem". The records are also sent to BSBI  and go onto our Distribution Database

All this has been keeping her busy, and I don't think she's had time to do much yet about the proposed local flora group (!) for South Uist, but she did manage to attend Fred Rumsey's sedge course at Kindrogan, and tells me it was  "excellent - can't wait to go out looking for sedges in the Uists now!" 


G. tinctoria on Benbecula
Image: L. Marsh
The BSBI Hebridean Recording Team all warmed to Flora when we met her on South Uist - she is very approachable and also keen to improve her (already pretty impressive) field skills. 

So we weren't surprised when we asked who she studied under and were told, with a broad smile: Richard Pankhurst at RBGE. Anyone who has been following this Blog will know the esteem in which Richard was held, but if not - take a look here, here and here.