Sunday 22 May 2016

BSBI Summer Meeting: Day 4

Botanists at Sale Fell, Cumbria
Image: Natalie Harmsworth 
Things are getting serious at FSC Blencathra - there's some serious recording going on! Here's the latest daily report by Jon Shanklin from the BSBI Summer Meeting: 

"Although a few spots of rain fell as we left Blencathra, that was it for the day and everyone enjoyed a fine day in the lake district. Once again groups of three or four scattered to the four corners in search of records for Atlas 2020.  

"My group of four headed for Rowrah, an under-recorded area since 2000, despite containing a National Nature Reserve with one of the finest hay meadows in Cumbria. 

A "purple patch": Early Purple Orchids
BSBI Summer Meeting 2016
Image: Anne Middleton
We started in the village, where there were some interesting garden escapes including the pretty Alchemilla conjuncta, although the owner of the property that it had escaped from thought it was becoming a bit of a pest! 

"We then headed for cycleway 71, which ran along a section of disused railway. The area of the old railway sidings distracted us, and we found a good selection of plants on the damp ground. In fact it distracted us so much that this was our lunch spot!  

"Continuing down the track we entered a permissive path through part of an old quarry, containing delightful woodland with trees draped in byrophytes. The rest of the quarry was guarded by a barbed wire fence and a moat, and clearly something very interesting grew there, but sadly we couldn't get in. 

We couldn't quite get Orchis mascula into our initial monad, so it became the first plant for the new monad. 

Botanists in a huddle over a plant ID.
Image: Dave Barlow
"A bit further along the cycle path we spotted the leaves of an umbellifer, but what was it? Nothing immediately came to mind so a leaf was bagged, and its grid reference taken. 

Plants were added to the monad edge, then we back tracked a little into the NNR. Part was rough grassland grazed by Belted Galloway, but sadly only a bit of the hay meadow was in our monad. 

"We recorded our bit, finding three species of Alchemilla. The rest of the NNR was a bit disappointing, though the boundary edge of an ungrazed meadow was more species rich. A few meanders along roads and tracks eventually got us back to the car for the longish drive back to Blencathra and dinner. 

Keying out Luronium in the evening
Image: Anne Middleton
"The post dinner ID session gave us some mundane species such as Arrhenatherum elatius (still vegetative in the lakes), and more interesting ones such as Geum macrophyllum found by another group. At 8:30pm everyone joined together to give some highlights, though there were still a few species to identify. 

The list is a long one, so not for the blog, but memories included the smell of Daucus carota, blue sheets of Viola canina, an Oak covered in epicormic growth like an Ent, a lunch amidst a flock of Oenanthe (so not the plant!) and some of the wonderful mountain scenery. 

Plant ID workshops at the
Summer Meeting were a great hit!
Image: Dave Barlow
"But what of that odd umbellifer? A quick look at the picture book immediately reminded us of Pimpinella, but as the leaflets were very big and the lowest clearly petiolate, possibly Pimpinella major. 

This seemed a bit unlikely for western Cumbria, however reference to the Cumbria Flora revealed "a possible 19th century record from near Arlecdon". Rowrah is just a kilometre from Arlecdon! Phil Brown is clearly going to have to have a closer look in a few weeks time when hopefully it will be in flower.

Tomorrow is our last day in this lovely part of England and it promises to be fine. Some people are driving straight off , but a few are continuing with a morning recording before heading for home."

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