Tuesday 30 June 2020

British & Irish Botany: Vol 2 Issue 2 out now!

Rare Spring Sedge
Image: Pete Stroh
The latest issue of British & Irish Botany has just been published. It's our first issue since we entered lockdown (the last issue was published in February), which has made it impossible for botanists to travel very far from their home patch. So many of the wonderful field meetings and workshops we had planned for you this year have had to be cancelled or postponed! 

But with this latest issue of BSBI's Open Access, online scientific journal, you will be able to travel virtually to locations such as the Scottish Highlands, the Sefton coast in northwest England, the chalk grasslands of southern and eastern England, to South Tipperary (yes it is a long way there...) and as far afield as Fair Isle! 

Read on to find out about the seven papers in our June issue.

First up we have BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker and England Officer Pete Stroh telling us about changes in the distribution and abundance of Rare Spring Sedge Carex ericetorum. 

Lathyrus latifolius spreading on
the Ainsdale dunes
Image: Phil Smith
If you don't know this rare sedge (yep, there's a clue in the name!) then check out the Species Account on the BSBI website and take a look at the latest BSBI distribution map for the species. 

Phil Smith whisks us away to the Sefton coast to consider the non-native taxa occurring in the coastal sand-dune system. Some of those aliens are showing invasive characteristics: Phil talks us through what those species are, what proportion of the local flora they represent and whereabouts in the dune system they are causing problems. Phil also calls for further studies so that strategies for effective control can be formulated and enacted. 

Stuckenia x suecica growing in the river at
Camus Bridge on the River Suir, Co. Tipperary
Image: Rosaleen Fitzgerald
Chris Preston and Rosaleen Fitzgerald report on an extensive newly-discovered population of a hybrid pondweed from a 60km stretch of the River Suir in South Tipperary. Stuckenia x suecica is the hybrid between slender-leaved pondweed and fennel pondweed but here in Ireland, as in Yorkshire where the hybrid is also recorded, slender-leaved pondweed (the rarer of the two parents) is out of range. Chris and Rosaleen unpick the mystery in their paper.

Nick Riddiford et al. tell us about the wild and naturalised flowers recorded on Fair Isle, including an impressive list of eyebrights Euphrasia spp.. Chris Metherell, co-author of the BSBI Handbook on eyebrights, is also a co-author on this paper. Take a moment to enjoy images of some of the gorgeous eyebrights recorded on Fair Isle and, thanks to Chris, identified with confidence: 

Selection of Euphrasia species on Fair Isle
Image: Tony Vials
We also feature three papers about hawkweeds in this issue. Interest in this challenging genus is high at the moment thanks to the new BSBI Handbook, the 20th in the series: Mike Shaw's  Hawkweeds of southeast England. I have to admit here that as a humble Comms Officer and Editorial Assistant on British & Irish Botany I've managed to avoid hawkweeds so far - there's a good reason for their reputation as one of the most difficult genera in the British flora! So I'll hand over here to my esteemed colleague Dr Ian Denholm, Editor-in-Chief of British & Irish Botany, to tell us more about these three new papers and why we should all learn to love hawkweeds: 

Drummond's Hawkweed at possibly
the only location in the world
where it still occurs.
Image: Tim Rich
"The first of Tim Rich’s two papers as sole author explores the current status of Drummond’s Hawkweed Hieracium drummondii, a rarity only ever recorded from a handful of locations in Scotland. Alarmingly, searches of these sites turned up just one extant colony in Kintyre. Since this species is endemic to Scotland, it is now in severe danger of global extinction. Tim’s second paper uses a combination of morphometrics and field work to demonstrate that previous records from Britain of a different Hieracium species, H. lanceolatum, are erroneous, exemplifying the difficulties of resolving the status and distribution of taxa distinguished by only slight differences in morphology. A third paper produced by Tim with colleagues from the Czech Republic uses a powerful tool called flow cytometry to investigate levels of ploidy and the genetic origins of species in two sections of the Hieracium genus. Instead of detecting difference in DNA sequences, flow cytometry measures the total amount of DNA present in cells and is a rapid alternative to the time-consuming and technically-challenging (and increasingly unfashionable) approach of observing and counting chromosomes directly". 

So there you have our first locked-down issue of British & Irish Botany which takes us not only to locations across England, Ireland, Scotland and Fair Isle but even to laboratories in the Czech Republic. And all without leaving the safety of our homes. If the recent months have left you with time on your hands to write up a recent botanical discovery, we'd love to hear from you. You can either submit a paper for consideration by Ian here or drop him an email to bib@bsbi.org - he'll be happy to talk through your proposal. 

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