Monday 25 May 2020

Looking at Fingered sedge during lockdown

Fingered sedge near Lynne's home
Image: L. Farrell
As the recently-updated BSBI response to Covid-19 makes clear, it is possible for botanists in some parts of the UK and Ireland to take permitted exercise close to home. Of course, government guidance for their country must be followed to the letter, including adhering to social distancing rules and avoiding popular/ busy beauty spots etc. 

At the time of writing, botanising away from the home, whilst sticking to the rules, is permitted in England. BSBI President Lynne Farrell is fortunate to have some first-rate habitat right on her doorstep and within walking distance, so she did some careful planning and then ventured out. 

Over to Lynne:

“I live in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB, which straddles both West Lancashire (VC60) and Westmorland (VC69), and recently, I’ve walked some of the local footpaths close to my home, keeping my distance from other local people, who have also been exploring these pathways. Once the Government guidance on permitted daily exercise was updated last week, I took the opportunity to look up the local Rare Plant Register and the records on the BSBI Distribution Database for the rare Fingered Sedge Carex digitata, which, I was aware, has one of its main areas right on my doorstep. 

BSBI distribution map for Fingered Sedge
Dark red squares show C21st records
Pale pink squares show C20th records
"Plotting the sites on the local 2.5 inch OS map, it became clear that I could actually walk to many of them from my home, and so during this exceptionally fine spell of weather, I have investigated what was, to me, a relatively unfamiliar species.

“Now I am aware that Carex digitata prefers to be in dappled shade, on well-drained limestone, often rocky banks and even though it has not rained here for more than a month, it has flowered well, although in some of the more open limestone pavements places it is looking rather desiccated. 

"Clearly this is a plant which takes its opportunity to grow, flower and fruit before the leaves are fully expanded on the trees, often Yew Taxus baccata, Ash Fraxinus excelsior and Hazel Corylus avellana. Other grounds flora plants have often not emerged but Dog’s Mercury Mercuralis perennis is a frequent associate.

The woodland where Lynne saw Fingered Sedge:
click on the image and zoom in to see the plants
Image: L. Farrell
“There are only another 286 species listed in the Cumbria Rare Plant Register and Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera is the next target species I’ll be looking at, as it struggles to come into flower in this dry May, and I am now allowed to walk a little further afield to investigate. I’ll let you all know how I get on”.

Many thanks to Lynne for telling us about the Fingered Sedge which she is lucky enough to have so close to her home.

We’re always keen to hear which plants people are spotting while sticking to those essential guidelines about staying safe. So, whether you are exploring rare plants or common species, whether within walking distance, right on your doorstep or in your garden, why not drop us a line and let us know what you are spotting? But please remember to read the guidelines carefully before planning any journeys outside your home and do take all the necessary precautions - the plants will still be there next year and we want you to be there too so you can enjoy them! 

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