Wednesday 16 February 2022

Mistletoe searches and a bright spark: February report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Mistletoe in Arnside
Image: L. Farrell
Last month BSBI President Lynne Farrell told us about her New Year Plant Hunt and was looking forward to reading the analysis of this year's results - she won't have much longer to wait because the report is almost ready for publication

So, what has Lynne been up to in the meantime? Over to her for her February report:

"It has been dull and overcast here in Cumbria, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through and strong winds re-occurring, so still unsettled conditions in many ways.

"At this time of year I feel restless and want to get out recording and searching for plants to brighten up my day. So having previously conducted surveys of Mistletoe Viscum album when living in Cambs., I’ve now turned my attention to Cumbs. There are very few recent records for the latter but the starting point was gathering information from the Flora of Cumbria and the BSBI Distribution Database, then contacting  local botanists. 

Mistletoe in Heversham
Image: L. Farrell

"The past month has seen me patrolling nearby villages, especially around Heversham, near Kendal, with my binoculars, camera, notebook and GPS. Quite a few people came out when they saw me wandering around and peering through my binoculars asking ‘Can we help you? The answer was ‘Yes, of course’. So now I have a distribution map of Mistletoe in the village and also a selection of locals ready to spot further plants. Mistletoe is an iconic species and one which attracts attention and interest.

"This is a particularly good time to search for it before the leaves appear on the trees. It is remarkable how difficult it is to see later on as it becomes hidden in the mass of greens. Jonathan Briggs has recently updated his previous work on Mistletoe and his paper can be found in the latest issue of British and Irish Botany

Winter Aconites
Image: L. Farrell
"Up here I have found it in old Apple orchards, in gardens on Crab apple and apple, on Limes in the churchyard and nearby Levens Hall, and on Hawthorn in old hedgerows, with just one sighting on a Silver Birch. I counted female and male spheres and also noted that they were many small plants, which indicates a healthy population. Locals also informed that it is spreading in Heversham.

"Although the orchards may be disappearing from some parts, they still exist in this area. The results of my survey have been sent to the BSBI County Recorder and he has now asked Cumbrian botanists to go out and search for it their areas. Perhaps you can also contribute where you live?

"One bright, welcome sight was a clump of Winter Aconite Eranthis hyemalis on a roadside bank. It's a neophyte, introduced into gardens around 1596, and first recorded in the wild in 1838. It is certainly amongst the first plants to flower in the year."

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