Sunday 22 December 2013

Every record tells a story...

Rubus surrejanus in Aberdeenshire sunlight
Image: D. Welch
I've been helping Plant Records Editor Mike Porter with proof-reading the next batch of records for New Journal of Botany and have been struck again by how much information is condensed into each record. 

Some of these plants have rarely been recorded before - David Welch, the BSBI's County Recorder for Kincardineshire and North Aberdeenshire, found Rubus surrejanus in two places, which yielded only the second and third records of this plant for the whole of Scotland. 

Alongside the serious info that you need in a plant record - who found it, who determined it (ie checked what it was), location with grid ref - there are evocative phrases like "19 plants in damp tussocky Molinia under birch in damp birch woodland". 

As Mike Porter says, "Entries like <<Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides *69 Westmorland: small grazed ledges & flushed turf in upland limestone pasture>> cannot fail to raise the spirits and inspire the planning of future expeditions".

Mike uses symbols - don't worry, there's a key!- to indicate interesting things about each plant - is it a new county record, or is a particular non-native plant an archaeophyte or a neophyte?  

Close-up: can you see why this is no "ordinary" bramble?
Image: D. Welch
And there's a huge variety of habitats! Here are a few examples: a roadside lay-by, surrounds of a power station, edge of an arable field, by a curling pond near a boathouse and "grassland, M40 Warwick Services northbound". BSBI botanical recorders find interesting plants all over the place!

If you have recorded any interesting plants, you need to contact your County Recorder(s) who will pass any records on to Mike if they are happy with them. You may need to press a herbarium-standard specimen and send it to a BSBI referee to be checked - like the specimen above, which David pressed for his own personal herbarium. Notes here on BSBI best practice in collecting specimens by the master, Arthur Chater

A typical Plant ID training session - this one is in Leics.
Image: L. Marsh
You can't benefit from the BSBI referee system unless you are a member, but everything else you need to get started is on our Resources page so next spring, if you've never tried botanical recording, why not download a recording card and have a go?

And if you don't yet feel confident enough to record on your own - try going out with a local recording group or check out BSBI training opportunities. You'll find out what support is available in your area and how you could start contributing towards the plant records held in our database.

BSBI members: watch out for New Journal of Botany dropping through your letterbox any day now and it also features a paper by David on the floristics of contrasting grazed-down moorland sites initially dominated by heather.

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