Thursday, 29 September 2022

BSBI News: September issue published

We've just sent out copies of the latest issue of BSBI News to 3,706 of our members, who will be able to enjoy 88 pages of botanical delights in our membership newsletter. 

Electronic versions are already available on the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website (email me if you've forgotten your password) and the growing number of members who have opted for paperless membership received their digital copies a couple of hours ago.

But what if you haven't yet joined BSBI and you're wondering what's inside the latest issue and whether you'd enjoy receiving three copies each year of BSBI News

Take a look at our free sampler to get an idea of the content and you can also enjoy one full free article: four beautifully-illustrated pages by Mike Crewe on 'Getting to know the common thistles'.

Garlic Penny-cress in East Sussex:
a BSBI News article asks,
is it native or introduced there?
Image: M. Berry

Other articles in this latest issue include Howard Beck on Teesdale Violet; Richard Milne looking at Yellow Bird's-nest on brownfield sites in Scotland; a report summarising the results of the first three years of Plant Alert (the joint project between BSBI and Univ Coventry to discover which garden plants have the potential to become invasive and problematic in future); and over 20 pages of articles on Adventives and Aliens. 

There are also the usual book reviews, roundups of botanical news from across Britain and Ireland and advance notices of forthcoming BSBI events, such as the Atlas 2020 launch plans, the new Awards and updates about BSBI Referees.

Tucked inside each print copy of BSBI News (or in the same digital pack if you've gone paperless) are four other pieces of reading material: the latest BSBI Annual Review (which you can also download from the BSBI website here); invitations with programmes and booking links to the forthcoming Scottish Botanists' Conference and British & Irish Botanical Conference; and an agenda for the AGM.

Sea Pea in Pembrokeshire; a report
in BSBI News suggests it may have been
lost from this site (the only one in Wales)
Image: S. Evans

So, lots for members to enjoy and for supporters who haven't joined us yet, some tempting reading material in the form of the sampler and the free article about thistles - but if that entices you to want to join BSBI right now - don't do it! 

Yes, you heard that right - do not under any circumstances join BSBI today. Instead, wait just two more days because our membership special offer opens on 1st October and then you'll be able to enjoy 15 months of membership for the price of 12 months. 

Head back here on Saturday to read all about how you can take advantage of the special offer and to find out more about the many benefits of BSBI membership. Until then... enjoy that sampler and the free article   

Friday, 16 September 2022

Out on the islands: September report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was looking at restoration sites in Cambridgeshire, where she used to be based, and Cumbria where she is based now. 

But as well as being our President, Lynne is also BSBI County Recorder for Mid Ebudes, and last week she managed to visit her patch - here is her latest report:

"I’ve been out on my smaller islands recently, where the weather was superb- it makes a change, and makes the botanising enticing.

"Here are some of the plants I spotted:

"Irish Lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana (image on left) is one of our rarest and elusive species, but there is more chance of finding it in Ireland, of course! In Scotland it is scattered on some of the islands, with just a few locations on Ardnamurchan, on the mainland. It does occur in the same habitats each year but it would seem not in the exactly the same places, so you have to search diligently, and that is what we did with some success. 

"It is a part of the oceanic boreal-montane element widespread in N. America but restricted to Britain and Ireland in Europe. Old lazy beds, and cattle-grazed flushes near the sea are favoured spots. 

"Pipewort Eriocaulon aquaticum is also a member of the same botanical element, again restricted to Britain and Ireland and widespread in N. America. On the island of Coll this means a fairly lumpy walk into the ‘interior’ but eventually you reach one of the hidden lochans (image above right and at foot of page) and find it is flowering in late August and into September.

"There are other species which flower in the autumn and although they may be insignificant in size, they are worth close inspection. Muddy trackways, often by farm gates, and island lay-bys with wet gravel and a smattering of peat, are just the places to get down on your hands and knees, to find Chaffweed Anagallis minima/ Centunculus minima (image on right) and Allseed Radiola linoides

"This often attracts the attention of locals, and several times they enquired as to whether we needed help, assuming the car had broken down. Some were sufficiently interested to get out of their cars and join us, and what’s even more encouraging, was that they were pleased to learn about some of our smallest plants".

That's some great outreach work by our President, spreading the word about BSBI and botanical recording to all the islands, big and small, across Britain and Ireland!

Friday, 9 September 2022

British & Irish Botany: issue 4.3 published

Wood Vetch in the Cairngorms
Image: A. Amphlett
We've just published the third issue of the fourth volume of British & Irish Botany, featuring eight papers by authors across Britain and Ireland. 

We have two papers from Scotland.

Firstly, Andy Amphlett, BSBI County Recorder for Easterness, reviews the vascular plant flora of the Cairngorms Connect project area, Scotland, and consider some possible implications of forest expansion to the natural tree line.

Secondly, Sarah Watts, Ian Strachan & Richard Marriott report on remarkable botanical records from Corrour in Westerness, including the creeping form of Lesser Water-plantain (which they elevate to species status as Baldellia repens) and Coral-necklace Illecebrum verticillatum, both new to Scotland.

Baldellia repens at Corrour
Image: S. Watts
From Ireland, we have a detailed review by Tony Murray and Mike Wyse Jackson's of the history, status and conservation management of Cottonweed Achillea maritima at Lady’s Island Lake, Co. Wexford, while Eric Greenwood and Hugh McAllister explore the systematics and cytogenetics of Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis around northern Irish Sea coasts. 

Wales is represented too, with Tim Rich's account of the endemic Brecon Hawkweed Hieracium breconenseconfined to a single location in Craig-y-Ciliau National Nature Reserve in the Brecon Beacons. 

We also have three papers relevant to wild plants across the whole of Britain and Ireland. Firstly, Michael Braithwaite, our President from 2005 to 2008, reports on change in species distributions at tetrad scale – this is a supplement to the booklet Change in the British Flora 1987-2004, written by Michael with Bob Ellis and Chris Preston in 2006 and available from Summerfield Books here.

Brecon Hawkweed
Image: T. Rich

Next, Hugh McAllister and Andy Amphlett have teamed up to provide a definitive taxonomic treatment of the Tufted hair-grass Deschampsia cespitosa complex in Great Britain and Ireland.

Finally, we have a paper by Julian Shaw and colleagues at the Royal Horticultural Society describing a hybrid between the two species of Giant-rhubarbs Gunnera previously considered widespread in cultivation and proving invasive in some regions of Britain and Ireland. This previously overlooked hybrid is now considered to greatly outnumber one of the two parental species (G. manicata).

So, another fabulous issue here of our Open Access scientific journal, free for authors to publish in and for you to read - and we hope that there will be something of interest in this issue (as in all our back-issues) for every botanist across Britain and Ireland. 

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Restoration: August report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

In July, BSBI President Lynne Farrell was in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, but in recent weeks she has been back in the UK - here is Lynne's report for August: 

"Now that we have been able to resume normal activities and ‘restore’ ourselves by being out in the wider countryside, I have been to some old haunts and some new ones. 

"The old one was where I used to live in Hemingford Grey, Cambs., and I visited the Manor House by the River Ouse. This has a wonderful garden created over many years by Lucy Boston (author of the Greenknowe series of children’s books) and now cared for by her daughter-in-law, Diana, who has become more interested in native plants and is integrating them into the garden as a whole. One of the areas of lawn is now a patch of cornfield species (image on right).

"A new area for me was at Haweswater, Cumbs., where the RSPB are restoring the large site by using grazing by traditional breeds such as Belted Galloways and Highland cattle. Planting of native species grown from seed is also being undertaken and they have a large plant nursery, which needs three hours of watering each day, especially in the hot weather. Students and volunteers are kept busy with this activity and recording. 

"The cattle seemed to be as interested in the visiting BSBI botanists (image on right) as we were in recording the plants, but they soon returned their attention to the job of grazing the land. The best find of the day was Adder's-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, a new site record.

"The site manager, Lee Schofield, has written a book about the whole project entitled Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Farm. The title itself indicates part of the story. 

"I find the mixture of familiar and new a good way to restore myself too".

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Going slow in the Julian Alps, Slovenia: July report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was out and about in Cumbria and in Wales.

Then in July she headed further afield, to Slovenia. 

Here is her report:

"This month I escaped to further afield despite British transport disruptions and joined a trip to the Julian Alps, Slovenia, based in Bohinj near where the International Wild Flower Festival is held in late Spring.  It is an area with magnificent scenery and, of course, fantastic plants. 

"I realised that Slovenia has no coastline so the lakes are very popular in summer for recreational water sports and in winter the mountains are ski-resorts (not to mention cyclists for those of you who are Tour de France supporters).

"As the temperature was 30C on most days, dipping into Lake Bohinj helped cool off later in the day. Thunder and lightning occurred late in the evening which lit up the mountains spectacularly.

"Many species of Lily, Saxifrages, Broomrape, Cinquefoil, Bellflower and Thistles are particularly diverse and difficult to determine, but we did manage some including a few species I had hoped to see such as Phyteuma (Physoplexis) comosum, (Devil’s Claw, image on left) and Potentilla nitida (Pink Cinquefoil, image top right), both favourites of alpine plant growers. 

"There are a few hazards including Cirsium spinosissimum (The Spiniest Thistle, image below).

"One of the most interesting aspects to me is seeing some of our rare mountain plants growing in abundance with many other species accompanied by species that do not occur in Britain and Ireland, providing a veritable botanical feast."

Many thanks to Lynne for this report and for the gorgeous photos - although That Spiniest Thistle certainly deserves its name!

Friday, 29 July 2022

Fen orchid refound in Carmarthenshire by 11-year old BSBI botanist

Image courtesy of
John Crellin/ Floral Images
Congratulations to botanist Tristan Moss (age 11) who spotted Fen Orchid during a visit to the MoD Establishment at Pendine, Carmarthenshire, while attending the Glynhir Recording Week with fellow BSBI botanists. 

According to Richard Pryce, BSBI County Recorder for Carmarthenshire and the organiser of the recording week, "the orchid had not been seen in Carmarthenshire for 19 years and was thought to have gone locally extinct". 

BSBI member Ruth Harding, whose day job is as the officer at Natural Resources Wales with responsibility for the site, said that she was "thrilled" at Tristan's find because "site management has been geared to restoring habitat suitable for the orchid to recolonise".

You can read more about the story of Tristan's find in this press release and in reports across the media in the past 24 hours: the story was picked up by ITV News, was covered in The Times and many regional newspapers and websites, it appears on the MoD Government website and was even mentioned by Martha Kearney on this morning's Today programme on Radio 4 (1 hour 46 minutes in). 

Tristan must have very sharp eyes because, as the image below shows, the Fen Orchid can be quite difficult to spot!

Thanks are due to Ruth and her team, to Richard and Kath for organising the recording week (a much-loved fixture in the BSBI events calendar) and for alerting all of us to this story, and to the staff at Pendine Establishment for access permission but the last word goes to Tristan who said: "I've been coming to BSBI meetings in Wales since I was a baby, re-finding the fen orchid made this the best year yet". 

Image courtesy of
John Crellin/ Floral Images

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

BSBI Summer Meeting 2022: Day Three

Yesterday we heard from Julia Hanmer, BSBI's Chief Executive, about the day she spent at her first ever BSBI Annual Summer Meeting (ASM)

Today's report is from Than, another plant-lover attending the ASM for the first time.

Over to Than:    

"This was my first meeting. As a beginner to botany, and having done most of my botanising on the streets of London, the only pavements I knew were those of concrete. The limestone pavements we visited on the Southerscales Nature Reserve were therefore both excitingly new and strangely familiar all at once. 

"Here were entirely new plant communities - many of which I had never seen before - jostling together through the cracks and crevices, not unlike their unruly urban cousins who I was better acquainted with. 

"On the grazed pastures  surrounding the path up to the main expanse of pavement, we were greeted by a company of orchids. These comprised Coeloglossum viride (Frog orchid), which I thought were less glamorous, but no less dignified than their colourful neighbours, Gymnadenia conopsea (Chalk fragrant-orchid, image on left), and further along, some Neottia ovata (Twayblade orchid).

"The limestone pavements were nothing short of spectacular, building up from patches to a contiguous expanse further up. This was what I could only describe in some parts as a veritable fernucopia (image below right). 

"In one tiny section of paving we identified five different ferns, including both rarer limestone specialists and generalists - Gymnocarpium robertianum (Limestone fern), Dryopteris submontana (Rigid buckler-fern), Dryopteris filix-mas (Male fern), Dryopteris affinis (Scaly male fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue fern). 

"There were more to follow too, including Athyrium filix-femina (Lady fern), Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair spleenwort) and Asplenium viride (Green spleenwort).

"The number of wildflowers on display were also wonderfully plentiful. 

"Whilst I had seen the Thalictrum flavum (Common Meadow-rue) before, this was the first time I saw its dryland cousin, the Thalictrum minus (Lesser Meadow-rue, image on left), and that too, whilst in flower. 

"Another member of the Ranunculaceae, which proved a personal highlight was Actaea spicata (Baneberry, image below right). We were lucky enough to see them at different stages of life, with some in flower and others with swelling unripe fruit that were a glossy green for now, but as I was told, would eventually turn a deep and deadly red.

"Amongst many of the learnings, one of the botanists in our party was also kind enough to give me a two minute masterclass on the distinction between the native hawkbits, with the one we had encountered being the hairiest of them all, Leontodon hispidus (Rough hawkbit).

"The afternoon took us to Salt Lake Quarry Nature Reserve. A special find here was the Eleocharis mamillata (Northern spike-rush), a humble plant in many ways, but more notable in my view for its rarity than appearance. 

"A small plant I was particularly captivated by was perhaps more common, though one I had not seen before - the demure and dainty white flower of Linum catharticum (Fairy flax) - a plant as magical as its common name suggests.

"All in all this was another fantastic day of learning in a fantastic landscape. With so much expertise around, and exceedingly helpful botanists at hand (image below) who were willing to share their wisdom so readily, I feel my botanical knowledge has expanded exponentially in the few short days I have been here.

"Thank you BSBI!"

You're very welcome Than - we're delighted that you enjoyed your first ever Summer Meeting and were able to sharpen your plant ID skills! Many thanks for this write-up and for all the fabulous photos you took, to illustrate this  report. 

Only one day left of the Meeting so watch this space for the final report.