Monday 14 August 2017

Inaugural meeting of the Kerry BSBI group

In the throes of recording
Image: J. Hamilton
The last time Jessica appeared on these pages, she was telling us about the very successful #KerryBSBIevent on the Dingle Peninsula. Now she's back to tell us about the inaugural meeting of the local botany group. Over to Jessica:

"The Kerry local BSBI group has found its legs and our first ever outing took place in Killarney on the 16th July. The aim was to get some recording done for Atlas 2020 but to also have a nice relaxed day for participants who are new to the world of botany and the system of recording used by the BSBI. 

Image: J. Hamilton
"The group was led by Therese Higgins and myself and we had 18 enthusiastic participants, majority of whom were all beginners, all of whom were able to take something new they learned away with them. 

"Botany is a subject that you really benefit the most when you get out in the field with more experienced people, I can attest to this, as when out you really learn ID tips and familiarity with species you might not have been aware of before. Sometimes a line or couplet in a botanical key may seem quite ambiguous but once someone shows a feature or the species in the field, it suddenly ‘clicks’.

Lough Leane
Image: J. Hamilton
"Once a plant has been pointed out and you get your eye in, you realise it’s often all around you. This is an aspect of the BSBI I love, whether a complete beginner or an improver you are welcomed with open arms and the atmosphere is always relaxed and easy going. 

"I hope we conveyed this atmosphere to the participants on the day! Plus I think we can all relate to that feeling when you’ve reached your botanical mental capacity for the day with all the new names and species etc., hence the importance of beautiful views and scenery to take in after! 

Marsh Ragwort
Image: J. Hamilton
"A few other locations were mulled over before deciding on Ross Island for our first outing, primarily as it was user friendly with easy access and facilities if needed nearby. Best of all, we were surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Killarney National Park.

"We collected over 200 species from two monads which was a nice feat for our first outing. The plan was originally to get more ground covered however as typical of botanists - less ground was covered in favour of ‘cooing’ of some very interesting species indeed. Which I think is very important, if we were to have zoomed through and not pointed out all the common species, they would still be unknowns to beginners. 

Broad-leaved Helleborine
Image: J. Hamilton
"Even the more common plants such as Slender St John’s-wort Hypericum pulchrum caused quite a stir when people first looked at them through a hand lens and saw the glands. I know Therese definitely enjoyed seeing the ‘wows’ and ‘ahhs’ that people projected upon seeing them.

"My botanical highlight was the beautiful Broad-leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine that we met quite a few of throughout the day, first just one or two and then nice patches of them along the shore of Lough Leane. I always get excited when I see any species of orchid (Anecdotal tale- I ‘met’ my first Heath Spotted-orchid back when I fell into a dike and looked up to find a handful growing right above my head, alongside some strange looks from a rather bemused spaniel of mine). So it was only my first time meeting this particular species of helleborine which was great and another orchid species ticked off.

"It was also the first time for me meeting several species in the ‘flesh’ as opposed to just via books or online. Three such species were Lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus, Slender rush Juncus tenuis and Wall Bramble Rubus saxatilis, - the latter being a entirely new species for me.

Image: J. Hamilton
"One species that caused excitement and uncertainty was the Broomrape Orobanche sp. The lean is towards O. hederae but this is not yet 100% confirmed, however it was also growing beside its likely host (Ivy) so it’s a fairly confident ID. Broomrapes in general are a lovely and different looking species to meet so I didn’t want to leave out a photo of this alien-looking parasitic plant.

"As well as these interesting species we saw lots of more common, typical species such as Remote Sedge Carex remota, Wood-sedge Carex sylvatica as well as a nice stands of Red Campion Silene dioica, Wood sage Teucrium scorodonia alongside speedwells, woundworts Stachys sylvatica and palustris, vetches and other members of the Fabaceae (Pea family). Remnants of the earlier spring flowering plants were also seen such as the seed heads of Early purple orchid Orchis maculata and Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, which would have carpeted the woodland floors a few months ago with their other woodland companions such as Bugle Ajuga reptans and Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella.

Red Campion
Image: J. Hamilton
"In damper areas we saw a few flowers of the last of the Ragged Robins Silene flos-cuculi that were still hanging on alongside Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium. The crisp odour of Water mint Mentha aquatica was smelled by everyone before we saw it. Marsh Ragwort Senecio aquaticus and Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria also put on a good show, especially around Ross Castle itself. Close to here we saw an aquatic invasive Fringed Water-lily Nymphoides peltata which is an escape from domestic ponds and the like. Angelica Angelica sylvestris was also starting to make its presence felt in the locality.

The invasive Fringed Water-lily
Image: J. Hamilton
"We were blessed with the weather with clear blue skies and sunshine all day. This weather also facilitated another highlight for me, we were surrounded by tens of Silver washed fritillary butterflies which are fairy like in their delicate appearance and movement. It was fabulous to see that they were relishing the good weather as much as we were.

"The good weather allowed us to have our lunch on the shore of Lough Leane, where another beautiful plant the Harebell Campanula rotundifola was a hit with people owing to its delicate and very pretty appearance. Nearby we encountered great displays of Common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense and Hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum.

Common Cow-wheat
Image: J. Hamilton
"We were lucky to also have Matt Hodd alongside us who pointed out many of the lovely species of tree present on our rambles such as Wild Plum Prunus domestica and Wych Elm Ulmus glabra.

I asked two participants for feedback on the day and what their highlights were. Michelle Duggan, a fellow classmate from the IT Tralee had this to say:
"I had a very enjoyable day out with the Kerry BSBI group. The group consisted of mixed abilities from beginners to more experienced botanists. There was a fantastic buzz of excitement as we made our way around Ross Island, Killarney. The highlight of the day for me was discovering a Broomrape species Orobanche sp. I've never come across one before and was taken back by its amazing purplish colour, that highlights it's parasitic nature. I thought that both BSBI representatives (Therese and Jessica) were fun and engaging which ensured the day was a great success. I look forward to getting out for more botanising!"

Thea Eldred, who was also present for the recent Kerry recording event on the Dingle Peninsula back in June, said:

Lakeside lunch
Image: J. Hamilton
“I had a fantastic time on what I hope was the first of many Kerry BSBI outings. For me these trips are the best way to improve my botany skills (I have been shown over 100 new species so far!), and they are also a lovely way of spending a day outside enjoying nature and meeting friends. 

"The highlight of our excursion to Ross Island was to see the surprisingly intricate and beautiful structure of the Slender St John's-wort Hypericum pulchrum petals under the hand lens. I would normally pass by this plant without a second glance, which just goes to show the value of accompanying a skilled botanist in the field. Thank you Therese and Jessica for being so generous with your time and knowledge! I look forward to seeing everyone again on the next Kerry BSBI outing.”

Lough Leane
Image: J. Hamilton
"I echo what Michelle and Thea have said and I look forward with anticipation to the next BSBI Kerry event, which will hopefully occur before the end of this summer. (Keep an eye on the Twitter and Facebook Pages mentioned below).
To conclude I want to thank everyone again for coming again. Also a special thanks to Therese for her never ending enthusiasm for botany!
You can follow our antics on the official BSBI Kerry Facebook page here or if you’re a Twitter user here

If you are in the Kerry locality and would like to get involved and come out with us on future outings, send an email to and I’ll add you to the mailing list". 

Thanks to Jessica for this account  - the BSBI Kerry group has got off to a great start (18 people on an inaugural meeting is probably a record!) so we look forward to hearing more about their progress. 

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