Wednesday 26 February 2020

British & Irish Botany: Vol 2 Issue 1 out now

Papaver atlanticum recorded by Chris
June 2016, Cambridge
Image: C. Preston
The latest issue of British & Irish Botany has just been published and it's a corker! There are six papers and a short note. The entire content is Open Access, freely available to everyone whether or not you are a BSBI member. You could head straight over here and start reading but as a bit of an appetiser, why not let me and Editor-in-Chief Ian Denholm talk you through some of the delights in store...

Our first paper is by eminent Cambridgeshire botanist Chris Preston, one of the co-authors of the celebrated New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora. Titled 'The phenology of an urban street flora: a transect study', the idea behind the paper arose from Chris's participation in the BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt back in 2016. He decided to "repeat the exercise at monthly intervals" so the paper "reports the results of four years’ recording, from January 2016 to December 2019, as a contribution to our knowledge of the phenology of plants in urban habitats". Phenology - the study of seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year - is having a bit of a 'moment' as this recent blogpost about Nature's Calendar shows.

Helosciadium x longipedunculatum
Image: J. Webb
Next up there's a paper by Dr Stuart Desjardins, an early-career researcher at Univ Leicester, and colleagues. It's great to see the next generation of botanists choosing to publish in British & Irish Botany! Stuart is obviously a big fan of the carrot family, and particularly of hybrids within the family - he previously published in New Journal of Botany, the predecessor to British & Irish Botany, about the hybrid between Fool's watercress Helosciadium nodiflorum and Lesser Marshwort Helosciadium inundatum. BSBI members can view this paper, and all the others in New Journal of Botany, via the password-protected, members-only area of our website

The new paper by Stuart and colleagues covers similar ground - over to Ian to tell us more: "Long-standing suspicions of genetic introgression between Fool’s Watercress Helosciadium nodiflorum and the nationally rare Creeping Marshwort H. repens at the latter’s locus classicus at Port Meadow, Oxford, receive molecular support by Stuart Desjardins and colleagues, including Oxfordshire's Judy Webb. Three specimens were examined that showed morphological intermediacy. Two of these are confirmed as the first generation hybrid between H. nodiflorum and H. repens, which receives the formal hybrid epithet H. x longipedunculatum".

Cotula alpina
Image: K. Walker
Kevin Walker, BSBI Head of Science, has teamed up with BSBI County Recorders from North-west Yorkshire and Wester Ross to consider Cotula alpina (Upland Leptinella) naturalised in northern England and northwest Scotland. This buttonweed appears to be spreading rapidly where it occurs and the authors suggest that it "could pose a threat to localized species associated with short grassland on acidic soils". Once you've read the paper you can click through to reports on Cotula alpina by Duncan Donald, County Recorder for Wester Ross, to find out more. 

For hawkweed Hieracium fans, we have two papers by Tim Rich and colleagues. Hawkweed identification is arguably one of the most challenging things a botanist can attempt and I'll admit that they are way beyond my pay grade. Fortunately there are two new BSBI Handbooks on hawkweeds in the pipeline. One, on hawkweeds of south-east England, is due out very soon and will hopefully make life easier for all of us! Meanwhile, over to Ian to tell us more about the two new hawkweed papers and why they are important:

Taraxacum pseudomarklundii:
an "enigmatic dandelion" from South Devon
Image: J. Richards
"Just about all our Hieracium taxa are obligate apomicts (seeds ripen without fertilisation), giving rise to a large number of ‘microspecies’ or ‘agamospecies’ with characteristic morphologies that are retained in the absence of sexual recombination. Using keys in Clive Stace’s Flora of the British Isles and elsewhere, plants can usually be assigned to Sections – the first tier of taxonomic separation. Going further than this is still the realm of the specialist, and one consequence of this complexity is that new taxa are still regularly being recorded and described. In this issue, Dave McCosh, Tim Rich and colleagues provide a formal description of three new species in the Section Stelligera that are attributed to the late Vince Jones, who first discovered them at locations in northern England. A second paper by Tim designates type specimens for species in Section Foliosa, in preparation for the forthcoming BSBI Handbook and guide to identification".

Next up, eminent Taraxacologist (dandelion expert) Prof John Richards has teamed up with John Day, BSBI County Recorder for Worcestershire, to bring us a short note about what they describe as "an enigmatic dandelion" found in Devon so in keeping with the air of mystery I'm not going to tell you any more about this one! But you can admire the image above of this Mona Lisa of dandelions... 

Hart's pennyroyal in NE Yorkshire
Image: A. Baker
Dandelions, like hawkweeds, can be very hard to ID to species - we all know what a dandelion is but few people realise that there are c300 different species! Like the hawkweeds mentioned above, they are apomicts and need to be put into Sections before you go any further. 

Fortunately there are some really helpful keys to the Sections, prepared by Prof Richards and published in the Plant Crib. You can find them here under Taraxacum and they are all free to download. If you will be in southwest Scotland in early May, there's also an opportunity to learn more about dandelions at the feet of the master: John is leading a Taraxacum training workshop in Portpatrick and there are still some spaces available. More details here.   

A paper by Ambroise Baker, about Mentha cervina Hart's pennyroyal, an aquatic alien mint recently found naturalised in north-east Yorkshire, possibly linked to climate change, rounds off this issue. Ian and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we all enjoyed working on it. So get a cup of tea, sit back, click on the link and enjoy British & Irish Botany 2.1.

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