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!

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