Monday 12 June 2023

British & Irish Botany: issue 5.2 published

Sitka Spruce regenerating in
the Lake District
Image: K. Walker 
We are delighted to publish the second issue of volume 5 of British & Irish Botany, the Botanical Society's online, Open Access scientific journal; several of the papers in this new issue have a distinctly northern/ arboreal theme!

First up, Dr Sarah Watts, Chair of the Montane Woodland Action Group, and an active member of BSBI's Committee for Scotland, has previously contributed very popular papers on Snow Pearlwort Sagina nivalis and on botanical records from the Corrour Estate in Westerness, where she is Conservation Manager. Her latest paper 'High mountain trees: altitudinal records recently broken for eleven different tree species in Britain' reports on the findings of a recent citizen science project to document observations of trees growing above 900 metres in Britain. It makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in altitudinal ranges of British and Irish plants who has been following David Pearman's research on this subject. 

One point of note is that more than half the high altitude tree records Sarah collated were of Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis, whose ability to spread into upland/ moorland habitats was flagged in the recent Plant Atlas 2020 summaries

Creeping Lady's-tresses on a wall
 in Aberdeenshire
Image: T. Norton

Joshua Evans presents the results of distribution modelling to predict the current and future distribution of pine woodland specialist plants, such as Creeping Lady's-tresses and One-flowered Wintergreen, in the Cairngorms National Park, and proposes the creation of habitat corridors to prevent populations of these iconic plants becoming isolated. Adrian Manning et al. consider the wild Scots Pines Pinus sylvestris of Kielderhead, (Northumberland), summarising debates over their status and significance, and conservation efforts so far. 

We move from the trees of northern places to the heathlands of the west of Ireland for a paper in which BSBI President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and Nick Scott ask, 'Were the five rare heathers of the west of Ireland introduced through human activity? An ecological, genetic, biogeographical and historical assessment'. If you enjoyed Micheline's previous very popular paper for British & Irish Botany, on whether the Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo is native to Ireland or was brought over by Bronze Age copper miners, then you are going to love this one too! 

The prostrate form of Variegated Horsetail
Image: P. Smith

Next we go to the Sefton Coast for Philip Smith's paper on the distribution and ecology of Variegated Horsetail Equisetum variegatum (a tiny thing but surprisingly colourful once you get a handlens on to it: it's green, orange, black and white!) and then we have two papers on hawkweeds: Tim Rich reports on the rediscovery of Hieracium fissuricola, an extinct Lake District endemic, and Jim Bevan considers the history of H. tridentatum and its replacement with H. trichocaulon.

The final paper is a fascinating journey back into botanical history; Chris Preston reports on C19th Cambridgeshire botanist the Reverend Richard Relhan and how his botanical recording activities were 'constrained by poverty'. Relhan was largely restricted to areas he could visit on foot and, like his near-contemporary John Clare, he was affected and saddened by the enclosure and drainage of species-rich habitats in his home county. Chris's fluency, erudition and in-depth knowledge of historical botanists make his papers and talks a 'must' - check out this video of Chris's talk at the recent Cambridge launch of the Plant Atlas, where he held his audience captive with tales of the authors of previous plant distribution atlases. 

We hope you enjoy this latest issue of British & Irish Botany and as always, get in touch with us if you have an idea for a paper you'd like to submit; both seasoned contributors and first-time authors are equally welcome!

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