Monday, 16 May 2022

Greenwings giveaway: the answer

Swallowtail on Milk-parsley
Image: A. Hunter
Our Greenwings giveaway competition has now closed, all entries anonymised and put into the randomiser, and the winner notified. 

The correct answer to the competition question 'What is the main food plant of the Swallowtail butterfly' was Milk-parsley Peucedanum palustre.

Here is the plant's distribution map, based on locations where it has been recorded over the years by BSBI's volunteer members. 

Although other food plants have been recorded in this country for migrants of the continental race of Swallowtails, the Milk Parsley is the only food plant for the native British race.

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition via Twitter or Instagram and huge thanks to Greenwings for this great offer which celebrates their joining the growing list of BSBI's corporate supporters.  

Friday, 13 May 2022

Greenwings giveaway: win a one-day wildlife holiday in the Norfolk Broads

Swallowtail on its main food plant
Image: A. Hunter
In ecology, everything is connected and interdependent - the flower relies on its pollinator, the butterfly relies on its food plant - and for natural history organisations such as the BSBI, the same principle applies: by working together, we can all achieve much, much more than soldiering on alone. 

But what, you are wondering, does this have to do with the great giveaway we are offering? Well, we are celebrating a new close relationship between the BSBI and Greenwings Wildlife Holidays, who have recently joined the growing list of BSBI's corporate supporters - they will be donating 10% of the proceeds of botanical wildlife holidays to BSBI, to help fund our research, training and outreach programmes. 

Southern Marsh-orchid
and Marsh Fern
Image: A. Hunter
BSBI Fundraising Manager Sarah Woods said “It is fantastic to be working with Greenwings to celebrate botany and the knowledge and enthusiasm of those who lead botanical tours. It is especially welcome to us that their botanical holidays will now also advance the knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of our own native flora, and help in its protection and conservation.”

Greenwings already has a similar relationship with our friends at Butterfly Conservation and are specialists in moth- and butterfly-watching holidays. Understanding the need for plants that support our iconic native butterflies, they are offering one lucky BSBI follower a free space on a £100 one-day wildlife holiday

You will join naturalist Patrick Barkham and co-leader Alice Hunter in the Norfolk Broads on 7th June to look for Swallowtails and their food plants, plus Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Norfolk Hawker dragonflies, and plants including Fen Orchids and Marsh Peas. Here's a report of the last time this team visited the Broads looking for Swallowtails, to give you an idea of what to expect. 

Swallowtail on a Marsh Orchid
Image: J. Dowding

Appetite well and truly whetted? Then here's how to enter:

1. You'll need to be on social media - either Instagram or Twitter - and you'll need to follow both BSBI and Greenwings. BSBI is on Twitter here and on Instagram here; Greenwings is on Twitter here and on Instagram here.      

2. You'll need to answer this question correctly: What is the main food-plant of the Swallowtail butterfly? (Top tip: our friends at the Field Studies Council do a great fold-out guide to caterpillars of all 60 species of British and Irish butterflies, and it lists the various food plants too.) 

3. You'll need to post your answer on Twitter or Instagram, tagging both BSBI and Greenwings. 

The winner will be chosen at random from correct entries after the competition has closed.  

Here are the Terms & Conditions: 

  1. One entry per account. Entrants may enter on both Instagram and Twitter.
  2. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this giveaway.
  3. The competition will run from 12 noon (BST) on Friday 13th May to 12 noon on Monday 16th May.
  4. The winner will be chosen at random from received and verified entries and will be notified by Direct Message within 5 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 10 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and chose a replacement winner.
  5. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  6. Decisions in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  7. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating their agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  8. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prize is not transferable and is subject to availability. Please note that travel costs to the holiday, entry fees to reserves, drinks and any other personal items are not included in the prize.
  9. Greenwings and BSBI reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of unforeseen circumstances

Good luck - we'll post the answer to the question on this News & Views blog next week.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Bluebells, orchids and Bird's-eye Primrose: May report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last month saw BSBI President Lynne Farrell looking at alpines and Pasque flowers (very fitting, as it was Easter). 

So, what has she been up to since then? 

Over to Lynne:

"I have to start this note with the emblem of BSBI, our native Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta as the flower show has been spectacular over the past few weeks. It is difficult to obtain the right shade of blue in a photograph and convey the lovely scent which wafts across on the breeze when walking through a blue woodland. 

"Here, on one of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves (image above right), there has been extensive storm damage with many mature Oak trees flattened and branches torn off. Many of these fallen giants have been left deliberately as long as they are not a danger to visitors, and the gaps that have been created in the woodland will allow many of the young Oak saplings to grow and replace their parents.

"It reminded me of being in a tropical jungle where a fallen giant creates the light and space for other species to take advantage. 

"A quick reminder here that if you are looking at a Bluebell and you aren't sure if it's a native bluebell or a garden hybrid, there are some helpful links and illustrations on this page.

"At Gait Barrows NNR in Lancashire, clearing to benefit another species, Bird’s-eye Primrose Primula farinosa (image above left) has taken place over the past few years. Creating bare patches in the marl around Little Haweswater with subsequent cattle grazing, has provided the right habitat for this small and beautiful plant to thrive. 

"It seems to be flowering early this spring and there are many small rosettes surrounding the flowering plants, so the future of what was a declining population due to closing up of the sward is now assured.

"Also just into Lancashire, the National Trust carried out their annual count of Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula and Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio (image on right) which grow together in a large field near the coast. Despite it being a wet morning, a record number of flowering plants of both species were recorded. 

"It seems to have been a good year up here for early flowering species, not just orchids. I hope that you also have been able to enjoy the colourful shows throughout Britain and Ireland".

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Escape to the Orchid Field: Pete's Big Day Out

As many regular readers will be aware, BSBI's Science Team (Kevin Walker and Pete Stroh) have been working flat out for the last three years (it probably seems a lot longer to them!) on the third BSBI plant distribution atlas which will contain, summarise and interpret the data collected by thousands of BSBI members and supporters during the twenty years of fieldwork towards the Atlas 2020 project

For months now, anyone asking Pete what he has been up to recently, has received a glazed look and the muttered response "Atlas captions..."

But it is springtime, when botanists need to get out into the field, even if only for a few hours, so I was delighted to receive the below message from Pete last Friday:  

"I escaped the Atlas for the afternoon to survey Terry Wells's Green-winged orchid plot at Upwood Meadows NNR (image at the foot of the page) in Huntingdonshire. I've been doing this each year since 2007. The plot was set up in 1978, and I wrote it up for British & Irish Botany in 2019. 

"Anyway, I thought I'd send you some pics, just in case you wanted to mention it on the blog and social media. 

"The crucial bit to mention is that the methodology uses two tape measures attached to permanent (feno)markers (image on left). Coordinates are taken for each individual, so that they can be relocated by triangulation each year. 

"That means that you can see if a plant has survived, assess flowering performance, know how old it is (at least from 1978), etc.  

"When I got to the plot, it looked like it was a 'bad year', with very few flowering orchids. However, I found 94 individuals - only four were missing from last year (possibly dead), and there were five new plants. So a net gain of one from last year, which itself was a 'good year'! 

"Of the 94, 61 produced flowering stems BUT 46 stems had their heads bitten off by deer and rabbits, so would not have been seen without using this method. 33 were vegetative (so would have also been missed). 

"Without using triangulation, I would have counted about 15 orchids, instead of 94! That's a lesson to reinforce for anyone counting orchids (or anything else), I think". 

Many thanks to Pete 'Two Tape-Measures' Stroh for this account - he also took all the images on this page during last Friday's brief orchid outing; you can see the distinctive green 'wings' (i.e. the lines on the tepals) very clearly on the pink example above right - click on the image to enlarge it. 

So, we have now sealed up the escape tunnel and Pete is back hard at work editing those Atlas captions. 

We hope soon to be able to tell you more about his progress and when we can expect to see the Atlas in print or online, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, if you are planning to get out and enjoy looking at and identifying our native orchids, many of which are at their best right now, you'll want to check out the resources and links we've pulled together for you on our Orchid ID page. 

We'll leave you with a pic (below) of Terry Wells's Upwood Meadows plot where Pete's population of Green-Winged Orchids resides safely within the well-managed boundaries of a protected site. 


Tuesday, 26 April 2022

BSBI News: April issue published

The latest issue of BSBI News has just been mailed out to our c3,400 members and it's an 88-page corker! But if you haven't yet joined BSBI and you're wondering what all the fuss is about, read on to find out what's in this April issue - and there's a free sampler and a full free article for you to enjoy!

The article we've selected from this issue for everyone, member and non-member alike, to enjoy is called 'Right tree, right place: using botanical heat-maps to inform tree-planting' and it's by BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker with Becky Trippier and Clare Pinches from Natural England. Many of you will remember the uproar on social media in 2020 when several species-rich sites were due to be planted, quite inappropriately, with trees; habitats supporting orchids and threatened bog plants would have been destroyed if those plans had been implemented. 

In response to this problem, BSBI has been working in partnership with Natural England, the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission to develop botanical heat-maps, based on BSBI data, which can be provided, under licence, to a range of land management organisations involved in decision-making around tree-planting: so our data - those millions of botanical records collected by our wonderful BSBI  members - will help to ensure that, in future, new trees and woodlands are planted in the right place. 

Read the article in full here to find out more about the heat-maps and check out free articles from other recent issues on this page.

Rahallan orchids, Co. Fermanagah
Image H. Northridge

Some of the other delights in this latest issue of BSBI News include: plant identification aids, from buckler-ferns to elms to a new dichotomous key to native and alien roses; eight pages of news about adventives and aliens across Britain and Ireland; a report on Alpine Clubmoss, which has been refound in the North York Moors after three decades; Robert Northridge's introduction to the plants of Co. Fermanagh; and President-elect Micheline Sheehy Skeffington considering how Irish place names can be used to locate rare species.

You can find the sampler issue on this page, where you'll have the option to read it on a Screen Reader, or you can view or download it as a pdf. Non-members can also access samplers of every issue of BSBI News since April 2020, when editor John Norton took up the reins. Many thanks to John for preparing the samplers which give a real taste of what's inside each issue of our membership newsletter. 

Vicia villosa (Fodder vetch)
spotted in Aldershot,
reported in BSBI News #150
Image: F. Rumsey

Finally, you'll notice that this new issue is number 150 - and with three issues each year, this means that BSBI News is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. An article in this latest issue called 'Now we are 50', submitted by Clive Lovatt, BSBI County Recorder for West Gloucestershire just a few days before his very sad and sudden death, celebrates this milestone and looks at how BSBI News has changed over the years. It is full of delicious 'Clive-isms' - the red colour used for the title in early issues is described as 'rather arterial'; the stylised bluebell logo is "planted" on the front cover... Clive will be much missed for his way with words, as well as his botanical skills. 

Everyone, whether member or non-member, can enjoy reading electronic back issues of BSBI News, from No. 1 (published in 1972) to No. 136 (September 2017), on our BSBI News archive page. This latest issue and other recent issues are available, to BSBI members only, on the recently revamped password-protected members' area of the BSBI website. Print copies of BSBI News are also posted to any members who prefer that option (a growing number are opting for paperless membership).  

If you are keen on wild plants and you enjoy the samplers and the free articles, do consider joining BSBI: access to the three full issues of BSBI News each year is just one of the many benefits you will enjoy as a member - find out more here.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Alpines and a plant for Easter: April report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last month saw BSBI President Lynne Farrell looking for signs of Spring up in Cumbria, where she is based. 

So, has it warmed up yet? 

Over to Lynne:

"It has been very cold and windy up here recently so I am focusing on plants photographed in the shelter of the garden and at the local Alpine Garden Society Spring show, which displayed plants of different colour, shape and form. 

"I know these are not native British species, but it might give you ideas on how to grow alpines in various pots. Most people will be able to find a brick and so could create their own miniature garden, and these examples (on the right and at the foot of the page) show you what can be achieved when you become more adept at construction and putting the right plant in the right pot.

"As it is Eastertime, I’ve also included a Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla rubra, from my garden (on left). In the next few weeks our native P. vulgaris will be in full bloom on the chalk in SE England or oolite in Gloucestershire, with one site on magnesian limestone in the north. 

"Take a look at this BSBI distribution map which shows where the plant has been recorded by our volunteer members over the years. 

P. vulgaris at Knocking Hoe
Image: K. Walker 
"One of the best places to see P. vulgaris is at Therfield Heath/Castle Hill on the Cambs/Herts border, where you can walk along the Icknield Way before heading up the steep slope to see the purple flowerheads and finely divided, silky-hairy leaves. 

"Its stronghold is in France, but I’ve never been early enough to see it in bloom there.

"A detailed account of this and other grassland species features in Grassland plants of the British and Irish lowlands (BSBI 2019) co-authored by the BSBI Science Team Kevin Walker and Pete Stroh, together with several BSBI members who have studied grasslands for many years. This book is well-illustrated and recommended. 

"There are alpine Pulsatilla species too, which can be seen growing in species-rich meadows on the continent". 

Friday, 11 March 2022

Signs of Spring: March report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Narcissus at Sizergh Castle NT
Image: L. Farrell
Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was looking at mistletoe but as we move towards Spring, what is Lynne looking out for now? 

Read on to find out: 

"During the past few weeks plants and animals have begun to stir as the days lengthen a little, and I now have three clumps of frogspawn in my garden pond. Most of the local colour is from Spring bulbs, some of which are native in parts of Britain and Ireland and others which are neophytes throughout this range.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil) is considered to be native in England and Wales and an alien in Ireland and Scotland, while Leucojum vernum (Spring Snowflake) is a neophyte, being introduced into gardens from where it has spread into the wild with the first wild record being in 1866. Two sites in SW England were thought to be native.

Spring Snowflake at
Sizergh Castle NT
Image: L. Farrell
Daffodils, of which we have several species and hybrids, are essentially all neophytes (apart from N. pseudonarcissus much beloved by Wordsworth), including the Tenby Daffodil, N. obvallaris introduced and now naturalised in South Wales. It was St David’s Day on 1st March so were they in bloom then? 

Daffodils are also collectors' items, rather like Snowdrops, but I do not know the equivalent name for Galanthophlies. Perhaps someone can inform me?

Spring tidying up (image below) is also in progress after the various storms we have experienced. Fallen trees are being felled, cut up and transported locally for firewood, but many are being left in place in coppices and more inaccessible places to provide wild life habitats in the future.

Several large trees blown down near where I live by storm Arwen, crashed in to the walled garden and damaged several old fruit trees. Work continues to ‘tidy them up’, so that safe access can be gained to the allotments. This will take some time throughout the country and no doubt the recovery will be compared to the Great Storm of 1987.