Sunday 23 February 2014

New Tasselweed video

Lliam Rooney's latest video is now available and it is possibly the *Citizen Kane of films about aquatics. Yes, Ruppia: the Movie is now out so grab some popcorn, switch your phone off and click here-->

Ruppia cirrhosa Spiral Tasselweed
Image: L. Rooney
Lliam says "I hope you enjoy it! It took a lot of doing to make it, but I am very happy with it... now it's finished!" 

And don't worry, the Horsetail videos haven't gone away, I've just moved the links up the page a bit - glance up above the date and you'll see the titles. I thought the Ruppia video could hog the limelight for a while. 

*This may mean that Claudia Ferguson-Smyth is the Eisenstein of aquatics. Battleship Potamogeton? Follow the link above to watch Claudia's P. epihydrus video.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Andy's Botanical Finds: part one

Andy Amphlett, VC Recorder for Banffshire, is certainly quick off the mark when gauntlets are thrown down. Within a few hours of my post about Brian Laney's botanical finds, Andy emailed: "Re-finds of taxa after many years, even 100 years, may be quite a frequent occurrence.  It’s something I seem to note in BSBI news now and then.  A recent-ish contribution of mine along these lines is:

"Amphlett, A. (2011).  A native population of Brachypodium pinnatum (Heath False-brome) in Banffshire (v.c.94), re-found after 144 years.  BSBI News 117, pp. 16 – 18". 

Andy also says "Of course a new vice-county record can be considered the first record in the post-glacial period, which rather beats the 100 year perspective". 

So this time let's throw down a pair of gauntlets -  have you re-found a taxon after 100 years or recorded a new taxon for your vice-county? Email me your record and we can share it here, and please can we also invent a one-word term for a taxon which is refound after a century, so I don't have to keep writing it out in full? A centenaritaxon perhaps?

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Brian's Botanical Finds: Part One

Some botanists just have a knack of spotting rare plants in the field - not to mention the roadside, petrol station forecourt or anywhere else that a plant may manage to grow. Even when botanising in a large group, there is often one person who keeps finding things before anyone else. Which is great, although you do think, why didn't I see that? Some people just seem to be extra-good at spotting something new and unusual, even if they aren't sure straight away exactly what it is! 

C. oppositifolium
Image: C. Farmer
But in that small group of particularly eagle-eyed botanists, who also have first-rate ID skills, there is one name that is becoming a bit legendary. Brian Laney (VC32) just keeps on refinding species that haven't been seen for over a century

We don't know how he does it, but... he does it.

Brian found "Opposite leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium Rare for Northants. I rediscovered the species in Shrine's Wood, an outlying part of Whittlewood Forest on the county boundary with Buckinghamshire. It is the first record from this forest for 116 years."

So here is the first in an occasional series of Brian's Botanical Finds, and a gauntlet thrown down. If you are - or you know - one of those eagle-eyed botanists who have re-discovered a plant in your vice-county which had not been recorded for over a century, please send us the record with a photo and we'll publish it here. Maybe I'm wrong and there are hundreds of Brian Laneys out there re-finding interesting plants. Hard to imagine, but wouldn't it be great for British botany if we had a Brian Laney in every vice-county?

Wednesday 12 February 2014

The Great, the Marsh and the Water... (Horsetails)

And here is the the third and final instalment in Lliam's trilogy of Horsetail ID videos. -->>

Unless of course he does a Star Wars and we have horsetail prequels. Not sure how photogenic E. hyemale will prove...

I gather Lliam is considering Ruppia (Tassel-weed) for his next genus. Watch this space!

Tuesday 11 February 2014

One BSBI member's first visit to a herbarium.

Himantoglossum longibracteata (detail)
Reprinted by kind permission of the
Natural History Museum 
I spotted this great post about one botanist's first visit to Manchester Herbarium, which obviously brought out his Hogwarts-obsessed inner child. 

This is a common response to herbaria, where you find centuries-old ways of preserving plants, and specimens that may have been collected by Victorian plant-hunters (and are often stored in buildings of a similar age), juxtaposed with 21st century ways of recording data, monitoring changes in plant distributions and extracting plant material for DNA analysis. 

Apparently there are 72 different uses already identified for herbaria. They really are botanical treasure-troves and delving into them seems to bring out the wide-eyed inner child in every botanist. 

Laptops rub shoulders with C19th specimens
(the plants, not the volunteers or curator).
The Herbarium at University of Leicester (LTR).
Image: L. Marsh
At the BSBI's recent AEM, I heard a group of well-known, expert botanists (no names, sorry!) agreeing that the reason they became botanists was so they could run off to the woods and look at stuff. So now you know that you're not the only one - I suspect that all botanists are just big kids who want to see nice plants in nice places, preferably with a gang of botanically-inclined mates. And 'plants' includes the pressed specimens stored in a herbarium, and the extra stuff that goes with each specimen, like the collection details and sometimes a hand-painted illustration (see image above).

No surprise either to find out that Tim, the author of the Herbarium post, is a BSBI member, so his Blog called 'from here to ecology' is now the 29th entry in the list on the right of Blogs by BSBI members.

Treasure chest aka
herbarium cabinet, RBGE
Image: C. Metherell
And a Blog by the charmingly-named Linden Hawthorne, who has just joined the BSBI, becomes number 30. Click here, or follow the link on the right, to find out more about Three Hagges Jubilee Wood and the excellent work that Linden and her gang of botanically-inclined mates are doing to re-engage children with the natural world. 

It would be great if we big kids could let the smaller kids in on the secret - running off to the woods to look at stuff is great fun, there are loads of resources to help you ID any stuff you find and - best of all - stuff just gets better the longer and closer you look at it! 

Sunday 9 February 2014

Great Horsetail - another great ID video!

E. telmateia
Image: L. Rooney
I can hardly keep up with Lliam Rooney - no sooner do I post here and tweet about his excellent new Marsh Horsetail video, than I see that he's made another video, this time on how to ID the Great Horsetail Equisetum telmateia. See both videos here --->>

The maps at the end show distribution of Giant Horsetail in Kent. I suspect that Lliam has been using Quentin's helpful video, showing how to make a customised distribution map for any species in your vice-county. But if you want to see national distribution of Giant Horsetail - or any other plant recorded in Britain or Ireland - you need to go here for our tetrad maps, here for our hectad maps and here for the Big Database

And when you're ready for some advanced Equisetum ID, try the Plant Crib pages

Saturday 8 February 2014

How to separate your Horsetails

Equisetum palustre: wide scarious
margins on the sheeth teeth help separate
this from E. arvense and hybrids
Image: L. Rooney
The Snowdrop ID videos made by BSBI member and botanical video-maker Lliam Rooney seem to be a big hit with all of you, so when I was browsing the Kent Botany Faceook page recently and spotted Lliam's horsetail ID video, I just had to get in touch with him. I asked what prompted him to make the videos and if we might expect any more of them? His comments in response add a whole new dimension to the question of what local botany groups are all about and what they offer to botanists keen to improve their ID skills. So, here is Lliam's story:

"At the inaugural meeting of the Kent Botanical Recording Group in 2010, Eric Philp suggested making botanical Keys of species that were within in Kent. He gave Euphrasias as an example. That way Kent botanists didn't need to muck around with all the other UK species that are present in the national keys. I thought this was a good idea and so made the Kent Euphrasia key and then the Kent pondweed key. I am currently working on a Kent Carex key and will be making the Kent horsetail key soon and as a video once I have more Wood Horsetail photos.

E. palustre: lowest branch internode is
shorter than stem sheath from
same node (unlike E. arvense)
Image: L. Rooney
"As a child I remember the David Bellamy programmes on TV and I thought that would be a great thing to do now, especially as YouTube is so public. Unfortunately my video camera was no longer working and so I compromised and used my photos instead to make the two Snowdrop videos which are linked on your Blog. I am very happy about this by the way and it was a pleasant surprise!

"I started designing a website that was to be a dedication to the Kent Flora and eventually was going to include all non-vascular plants as well. It was also going to be an identification tool to help Kent botanists with the more difficult taxa.

"I wanted to concentrate on Kent because there are already excellent sites out there with photographs that are striving to contain all the UK flora (John Crellin's for example) and whilst I am personally a big fan of books I imagined that in the future, botanists would probably take tablets and smart phones into the field rather than heavy books and so I thought that if every county or vice county had their own version of a flora with their own county keys and species then it would make things easier for everyone. 

Stand of E. palustre with cones emerging
 Image: L. Rooney
"For example if I was on holiday in Cornwall or up in Scotland and fancied some botanising, I could connect to their county site and it would have all the relevant species and/or relevant keys. As there is a lot of flora that is present in all the counties then we could share photos and ideas which would save people a lot of time and hassle.

"But anyway, the website is proving difficult to get going; even though I have designed it, getting it to go live and hosted by the right people isn't happening and so out of frustration I decided to make videos on YouTube instead in the way I had done with the Snowdrop videos. YouTube also has the advantage of being free! However, the disadvantage of connecting to internet sites in the field is that you may not get a signal, especially in remote areas but I am happy to send anyone a phone-ready film via email so they can download it onto their device; with or without music, whatever is prefered.

E. fluviatile: note greater number of ridges &
teeth without conspicuous scarious margins
Image: L. Rooney
"If this proves to be well received then people could get a YouTube account and subscribe to my channel and then create folders to contain the videos. For example, they could have an Orchidaceae folder, a Pondweed or Sedges folder to make searching for species a lot easier.

"Maybe I'm getting a bit too far ahead of myself! But the videos have been fun to make and educational for myself and I hope too for others. I will continue to make them and hopefully they will be a handy on-line source of information to sit alongside and augment the already excellent books that adorn our bookshelves...and be quite pretty to look at too!"

Well, I think Liam's videos are great - really helpful and they look gorgeous. Take a look and let me and Liam know what you think - leave a comment below.Or email me if you would like Lliam to send you a phone-ready film. What a kind offer on his part - shows how BSBI members are really keen to help everyone learn more about plants!

Sunday 2 February 2014

Maybe your botany group would like to have a 'Wild Thyme'?

Moenchia erecta at Fawsley
Image: B. Laney
That's the title of the excellent newsletter that Rob Wilson has been sending out each year to botanists in VC32 Northamptonshire and surrounding counties.

Rob told me "The Northamptonshire Flora Group has been running since the early 1990s and I have been producing newsletters since then.  It was very useful to keep in touch when we were producing the 1995 Flora and subsequently for Atlas 2000 and the 2013 Flora.  We now have a number of active members who are well on their way to completing more than is required for the 2020 Atlas, although we are always looking for more volunteers". 

If you live in Northants. and want to get involved, get in touch with Rob here. We are also putting together a "help pack" for local groups, and Rob has kindly agreed to draft some notes to help you start your own newsletter.  

Gill Gent examines Odontites jaubertianus
at Spanhoe Airfield
Image: R. Wilson
Rob is quick to acknowledge the help of the many local volunteers who have contributed records over the years, such as Gill Gent, who was VC Recorder until she retired last year after "more years than she cares to remember!" 

Gill was a driving force behind the 1995 Flora, and in 'Wild Thyme' she talks of growing up in the Nene Valley during the Second World War when "the valley was a patchwork with many colours of blooming flowers..." 

And of course Northamptonshire is the home of plant-finder extraordinaire Brian LaneyWherever Brian goes, he seems to effortlessly spot plants that have either never been recorded in the county before or else have not been seen for around a century. How on earth does he do it? 

Brian Laney in VC55 for New Year's Plant Hunt 2013-4
Image: L. Marsh
Dipping into the latest issue of 'Wild Thyme', there is Brian's gorgeous image of Upright Chickweed Moenchia erecta which he re-found in Fawsley last June, the previous record being from 1877. 

There is also a note about Rob, who recently received the Cliff and Joyce Christie Award for contributions to the study of natural history and/or conservation in Northamptonshire. This was presented to him by Baroness Young of Old Scone, the President of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, at their AGM last October.

Odontites jaubertianus
Image: R. Wilson
Click here to read the full story in 'Wild Thyme', which also has an update on the Rare Plant Register for VC32, notes on 'Unusual plant records' (including Brian's Moenchia erecta) and the group's calendar of 'Botanical Outings'. 

I love the way botanists, so precise in their language when discussing taxonomy and botanical nomenclature, fling so many different terms around to describe what we actually do. We hold botanical outings or fieldtrips or field meetings or excursions with our local Flora/BSBI/county/botany/recording group. When we get there, we may pootle or poke about or have a nosey, but if we have time we will carry out a survey or fill in a card or bash a square. 

No wonder people don't have a clue what a botanist actually does - pootling and square-bashing? I guess newcomers will just have to try and get on to one of our field meetings and find out for themselves what goes on. And will probably tell us that they were out mooching with BSBI Plant Club and Brian Laney found something really rare... again!

Saturday 1 February 2014

Snowdrop update

Galanthus 'S. Arnott'
Image: M. Crawley
Everyone is going snowdrop-crazy this spring. Is it the miserable weather that's making people keen to see plants coming into flower? Might it be an after-effect of BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt, which had people out plant-spotting in the middle of winter?

Fortunately for Galanthophiles, Mick Crawley is on hand to help. His Snowdrop Key is especially popular this year but Mick's name also appears at the end of this video to help people ID snowdrops - and this one - so it looks like the botanical video makers also relied on Mick's Key

Galanthus plicatus
Image: M. Crawley
So when I spotted this article in the Telegraph the other day, about the discovery of what we are told "appeared to be a previously unseen cultivar of G.xvalentinei, a hybrid between the two species G. nivalis and G. plicatus", it seemed a good idea to run it past the master.

Mick commented "It certainly looks like G. nivalis x plicatus" which was reassuring for journalist Leah Hyslop, who Tweeted "good to know!" 

Also note that her article says "appeared to be" and "if it is confirmed" - so a big BSBI thumbs-up to Leah for accurate reporting!

And Mick isn't BSBI's only eagle-eyed Galanthophile. Martin Rand, our Recorder for South Hants (VC11) got in touch to say "Galanthus nivalis x plicatus isn't new to Britain, or to science. It's quite frequently planted and can appear in churchyards, etc. However I've seen it this year in the drive to a country house where the two parents were planted some years ago, but I don't think the hybrid was planted. So this may be a natural hybrid population, which I've not ever consciously seen before". That's in bold because when as experienced a recorder as Martin sees something new, BSBI botanists prick up their ears!  

Passing on these little snippets to you has given me a perfect opportunity to post two more of Mick's snowdrop photos. Enjoy Galanthomania while it lasts. Soon it will be daffodil time and... oh, look who's done a Daffodil Key for us all to use this spring!