Wednesday 28 August 2019

West Galway: the main recording event for Irish botanists in 2019

Marsh St. John's wort & pipewort:
a common sight in Connemara
Image: J. Conaghan
I wonder if, like me, you were absolutely gutted to miss Ireland's main botanical event of the year? Last year's Mayo recording event was so amazing, I wish I could have gone to this year's 4-day event in Connemara/ West Galway. The Irish botanists are so friendly and helpful, and they always make botanists visiting from Britain feel really welcome! Not sure if the report below, by organiser John Conaghan (County Recorder for West Galway) is just making me feel more depressed that I missed this year's meeting! Next year for sure... Meanwhile, over to John:

"It has been a month since the end of the West Galway (H16) four day recording event, just enough time for the recording dust to settle. It all seems a bit hazy and frantic now. Meeting in the morning, driving to sites, recording, eating, sleeping, repeat…. essentially a botanical version of groundhog day. The meeting was very well attended with a total of 39 people appearing over the four days with anywhere between 16 and 27 people participating each day. In order to maximize coverage we divided into three groups each day, lead by myself, Robert Northridge and Rory Hodd. Although the final tally of records has not yet been compiled it is likely that somewhere in the region of 5500 records were made over the four days.

"The meeting was based in Clifden and the main aim was to increase the post-2000 species numbers in some of the less well recorded hectads in the western half of the vice-county.  As West Galway is a vice-county characterised by extensive areas of blanket bog, heath, bog lakes and coastal habitats visitors were delighted to see a number of species which occur in profusion such as Daboecia cantabrica (St. Daboeoc’s heath), Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort) and Hypericum elodes (Marsh St. John’s wort). 

St. Dabeoc's heath in flower
Image: J. Conaghan
"During the meeting a range of sites were visited and the following account relates to groups in which I was involved. On Thursday we visited Omey Island which is accessible on foot across a sandflat at low tide. Botanical highlights on the island included an encounter with a very large and attractive colony of Eryngium maritimum (Sea holly) and a population of Sesleria caerulea (Blue moor-grass) on blown sand over rocks which turned out to be a new hectad record. On Friday we visited a delightful bog lake north of Carna village which yielded a fine collection of rarer wetland species including Rhynchospora fusca (Brown-beaked sedge), Eriophorum gracile (Slender cotton-grass), Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort), Lobelia dortmanna (Water lobelia) and the very rare Deschampsia setacea (Bog hair-grass).

Investigating heathland west of Clifden
Image: J. Conaghan
"Saturday’s recording target was the lovely Derryclare Wood which is one of the few examples of native Oak woodland in Connemara. Thankfully it was relatively midge-free on the day, a very rare occurrence. In addition to the well-developed woodland flora the track into the woodland provided a good number of rarer non-native species including Mentha requienii (Corsican mint), Epilobium pedunculare (Rockery willowherb) and Juncus planifolius (Broad-leaved rush). The Irish distribution of these alien species is largely restricted to the Connemara region. On the final day a sand dune area at Eyrephort, north-west of Clifden, was visited. Notable species recorded here included Coeloglossum viride (Frog orchid), Asperula cynanchica (Squinancywort) and Trifolium medium (Zig-zag clover). 

"All in all the meeting was a great success and the feverish recording activity has greatly added to knowledge of plant distribution in West Galway. It was also great to meet up and hang out with a large number of people with a similar penchant for plant recording, something which doesn’t happen often enough".

Sigh... that sounds amazing! Keep your eyes peeled for details of next year's BSBI meetings across Britain & Ireland - we'll be posting them here in late November. 

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