Friday 30 May 2014

South Yorks. botanists out in force

Arum maculatum
Image: M. Linney
The South Yorkshire Botany Group has been out in the field again, this time visiting an ancient woodland site to look for Indicator plants. This second meeting, to Wombwell Wood and the Blacker Hill area, was advertised in the Field meetings Programme and attracted even more botanists than the group's inaugural meeting!

Co-ordinator Mel Linney said "We had a great day, twenty four made the meeting with eight new faces so it would seem we are attracting attention. Also we are drawing in younger botanists eager to learn more so, I think, some training sessions are needed to encourage beginners and improvers".

Excellent idea! Experience from VC55 suggests that there are lots of people who are just starting out with plant ID and would like to learn more.  

South Yorkshire botanists checking a bank
Image: Joshua Linney
Lotus corniculatus Bird's Foot Trefoil
Image: M. Linney
Mel very kindly emailed me a species list for the day, but it is May and we are all too busy to write long reports unless absolutely necessary, so I'm hoping we can piece together a fuller picture of the group's day just by looking at the plants they recorded! 

Firstly, I see they found Galium odoratum Sweet Woodruff, Lysimachia nemorum Yellow Pimpernel and Milium effusum Wood Millet. 

These would count as Ancient Woodland Indicators in Leicestershire and perhaps also in South Yorkshire? And it turns out that Wombwell Wood is indeed an ancient woodland site, part of the South Yorkshire Forest, and one of a network of England’s Community  Forests. This programme was established in 1990 by the Countryside Commission.

Some of the woodland species the group saw are typical of more acid woods: Betula pubescens Downy BirchQuercus petraea Sessile Oak and Blechnum spicant Hard-fern. There are also records for Festuca ovina Sheep's FescueAchillea ptarmica Sneezewort, Teucrium scorodonia Wood Sage and Veronica officinalis Heath Speedwell, so I guess we're all thinking, acid grassland/heathland. 

Glechoma hederacea Ground-Ivy
Image: M. Linney
Although they also got Knautia arvensis Field Scabious and Rubus caesius Dewberry, typical of more alkaline soils! And they saw Glebionis segetum Corn Marigold. 

Add in the records of Nasturtium officinale Watercress and Veronica beccabunga Brooklime and we know they also found somewhere wetter while they were out.

That's a nice mosaic of habitats and soil types and I gather the weather was good, so it sounds like a lovely day looking at some nice plants. And some more plant records nailed into the bargain. Well done, South Yorkshire Botany Group - here's to your next meeting in July! Contact Mel if you would like to attend.

Thursday 29 May 2014

"Would we like to see the Oysterplant?"

Oysterplant in Shetland
Image: I. Denholm
Some photos today of a plant that few of us ever get to see, more's the pity. The lovely Oysterplant Mertensia maritima also has a special relevance for BSBI. 

Celebrity alert: I am about to name-drop and I will be doing it on a grand scale! 

BSBI's patron until her sad death in 2002, at the fabulous age of 102, was HM the Queen Mother who - you may not be aware of this - was actually a keen plant-lover and knew her stuff, as this note in an old copy of BSBI News shows. Just take a look at page 9! 

Oysterplant on Orkney: botanists on hands & knees.
Image: I. Denholm
After receiving BSBI members at the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother apparently asked the botanists "Would we like to see the Oysterplant on the shore?" and promptly led the party down to admire the plant with her. And she knew exactly where it grew.

These days, both our President Ian Denholm and Hon Gen Sec Lynne Farrell (BSBI royalty!) have recorded the plant in their botanical peregrinations, Lynne in the Western Isles, and Ian on Shetland and on Orkney. Thanks to them both for kindly sharing these images with us. 

Oysterplant on Lunga, off the coast of Mull
Image: L. Farrell
You can read more about Lynne's Hebridean botanising here, and Ian's orchid-hunting expeditions here

Or click here and here to find out more about Mertensia maritima and see where it has been recorded in Britain & Ireland.

And don't forget, you can view back-copies of BSBI News in our archive here. They start with Issue 1 in 1972 and go right through to the end of 2012. A few design changes over the years, and if you want to see the most recent issues, well I'm afraid you will just have to join BSBI! But back-copies of BSBI News are an absolute treasure-trove of little botanical gems, like the story of the Queen Mum, the botanists and the Oysterplant.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Hunting the Ghost Orchid: Part 2

The last Ghost Orchid recorded
at Marlow, 1987
Image: N. Kendall
Since he published his paper on the Ghost Orchid in the April issue of New Journal of Botany, Sean Cole hasn't been letting the grass grow under his feet. He announced last month on these pages that he was going to be co-ordinating a nationwide search in 2014 for this most elusive of orchids. Well, he's gone ahead and done it.

The Ghost Orchid Project is now live, with a website, a Facebook page here, a Twitter feed here and keen volunteers are already signing up to help Sean with the hunt.

If you read about Sean's life-long dream of seeing a Ghost Orchid in Britain, and want to help him realise this in 2014, why not check out their pages and get involved? And you may recognise the name of the Conservation Officer that Sean has signed up to the project: it is none other than Brian "Eagle Eyes" Laney!

Ok, refinding the Ghost is a long shot - this is, after all, one of Britain's most elusive plant - but BSBI botanists are nothing if not intrepid. Go Ghostbusters!    

Tuesday 27 May 2014

What are BSBI botanists up to this month?

Keying out over lunch, Flintshire
Image: M. Clymko
I'm constantly amazed by the energy and enthusiasm of BSBI members and the wide range of botanical activities they get up to! Just look at some of their recent posts (scroll down list on right of screen). As well as going out recording what grows in their local patch, and helping people key out what they find, our members are:

taking lovely images of orchids and other plants in flower just now, and of BSBI recorders in the field: I just had to share the image on the right, from the BSBI Cymru Blog

telling us more about individual plants like these Fly Orchids in the Avon Gorge, or the wildlife of unusual habitats, like this old lead mine;

Cystopteris fragilis recorded in VC42
Image: J. Crellin
carrying out some interesting botanical experiments in their back gardens and reporting back on them!

working with other organisations, like Wildlife Trusts and the Wildflower Society, to put on great joint meetings for local botanists;

seeing other nice wildlife and encouraging members to submit those records to the relevant person;

sharing their personal thoughts on more controversial issues - like biodiversity offsetting - and inviting you to leave them a comment and join the debate;

attending BSBI national workshops and offering some great feedback;

Working on botanical specimens
Image courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust
sharing the notes and sketches they make as they get to grips with plant ID, often after a long gap;

offering botanical ID challenges and reminding us how much fun it can be learning about botany!   

counting orchids for Natural England and passing on info about regional volunteering opportunities for botanists, like the chance to work on botanical specimens this summer in Birmingham. [I rarely post about VC55 stuff on this page, to avoid any hint of favouritism, but just had to share these two!]

Monday 26 May 2014

BSBI Summer Meeting(s)

Botany meeting in Co. Galway, May 2014
Image: H. Carty
When it comes to BSBI meetings, we have a wide range on offer just now, and you don't usually have to be a BSBI member. 

First, there is our national programme of field meetings, many of which are suitable for beginners. Some are focused on a critical group, such as the recent Dandelion Workshop. 

Then, there are all the local meetings organised by our local groups across Britain and Ireland.

Prof John Richards & Taraxacum richardsianum
BSBI Dandelion Workshop March 2014
And there's the big one, the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting.

I gather there are still spaces on the fieldtrips, although some of the accommodation options are now fully booked.

BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh said "It is still not too late to book on the 2014 Annual Summer Meeting – but you will have to be quick! The event is in two weeks time - on Wednesday 4th to Saturday 7th June in Birnam, near Dunkeld. 

Local botany meeting in Leics. May 2014
Image: L. Marsh
"We commence with dinner on Wednesday and a full day of interesting talks on Thursday - including one on the results of the repeat survey of McVean & Ratcliffe plots by Dr Louise Ross, John Hutton Institute and another on 30 Years of monitoring rare plants on Ben Lawers by Dan Watson, NTS.

"There will then be two days of field meetings on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th. Local recorders with help from Nick Stewart and Les Tucker will lead field meetings to the very best Perthshire botanical sites. Full details on the BSBI website here."

Saturday 24 May 2014

Brian's Botanical Finds V

Lactuca virosa
Wiki Commons
Here is another plant that Brian Laney re-found after a gap of a mere 168 years. He was in Shropshire, doing some consultancy work in 2009, and while carrying out a Phase One Habitat Survey between the M54 and Oswestry, he spotted something interesting.

Brian had re-discovered Greater Lettuce Lactuca virosa which was first recorded in the county by Henry Spare in Leighton's Flora of 1841. Brian said "That record is not widely accepted, but I found L. virosa turning up on the side of the A5 at Preston (SJ 535 121) and Upton Magna (SJ 554 118), both in 2009".

Take a look at the distribution map here. If you pass the cursor over the screen, you can see which grid square you are on. And you can see the black dot on square SJ 51 which represents Brian's two records.

Brian wasn't able to get a photo of the plant so here is an illustrative plate courtesy of Mr. Google. If you want to see a fresh specimen, you'll just have to emulate Brian. Grab your "Poland" or "Stace" and get out plant-hunting this year. If you re-find something that hasn't been recorded for a few years, we can share it on this page and you will have added a black dot of your own to a BSBI distribution map!    

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Alien Invaders on Radio 4

Gunnera tinctoria in Kintyre
Image: H. McHaffie OBE
Nice to hear author, journalist and BSBI member Ken Thompson on Radio 4's 'Start the Week' on Monday and now on iPlayer here

Ken writes for the Daily Telegraph on plants and gardening, and some of his articles mention BSBI, like this one and this one (although of course I disagree with Ken's comments about New Journal of Botany!)

The theme of this week's 'Start the Week' was Alien Invaders, and Ken had been invited on as his most recent book is called Where do Camels belong? The story and science of invasive species. There is a nice review of it here in New Scientist, where we are told that Ken displays a "healthy dose of sarcasm towards "aliens = bad" fundamentalists and argues for a case-by-case approach". 

This is in keeping with David Pearman's views, expressed in this discussion paper co-authored with Alex Lockton which, although it has been around for a few years, is still very pertinent and also a good read! 

Gunnera tinctoria on Achil Island
Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
Our President, Ian Denholm, also chose 'Alien Invaders and Native Thugs' as the theme for his State of Nature presentation last year, challenging preconceptions and generalisations about native plants but also flagging up recent observations by BSBI botanists on the spread of "escaped" Gunnera tinctoria in the Outer Hebrides and on Achil Island

Rob Marrs and co-authors also drew our attention to three native "thugs" in their recent paper in New Journal of Botany, which was itself based on a presentation Rob gave at our Mapping Conference in Edinburgh. 

Also on the panel for Monday's 'Alien Invaders' discussion on 'Start the Week' were Monique Simmonds from Kew, an NHM palaeontologist and a farmer who has published a book on meadows. Well worth a listen! 

Friday 16 May 2014

Botanical treats: audio and video

Mmm chlorophyll...
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
Dr Sandy Knapp was on Radio 4 yesterday, talking about photosynthesis on Melvyn Bragg's 'In Our Time' programme. If you missed it, or would like to listen again, here is the link on iPlayer.

You may also like this 12 minute video of Sir David Attenborough talking about Sir Joseph Banks' botanical voyage on the Endeavour. And if you want to know more, you should also check out the excellent Banks Endeavour Facebook page and this radio broadcast about the project.

Some great resources from Kew here and also a video showing Spring coming to Kew Gardens. If you are following the progress of the petition against the cuts at Kew, you may be aware that almost 90,000 people have signed it so far. There have been a few articles with more background about the situation at Kew here and here and even one in Horticulture Week. And lots of people commenting on Twitter

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Northants. botanists find some locally rare plants

Tony, Martin & Rob out botanising
Image: B. Laney
Brian Laney has sent this report of a meeting held in Northants last month, where he, Tony Hopcraft, Martin Atkins and County Recorder Rob Wilson visited two nice sites. 

Brian says: "First stop was Everdon Stubbs which is classed as ancient woodland. Many plants were recorded to update the records and species seen included: Lamiastrum galeobdolon (Yellow Archangel), Oxalis acetosella (Wood-sorrel), Silene dioica (Red Campion), Ribes rubrum (Red Currant), Ranunculus auricomus (Goldilocks Buttercup) and Galeopsis tetrahit (Common Hemp-nettle). The wood has a fine display of the native Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell).

"Two target species of which records were needing updates was for Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Daffodil / Wild Daffodil) and Sedum telephium (Orpine) both of which are Northamptonshire Rare Plant Register species. 
Orpine Sedum telephium
Image: B. Laney

"The great news is - we located both species on the day. About three clumps of the orpine were seen not far from the parking area on the road side embankment, of course not in flower at the time of the meeting. The wild daffodil on the other hand was well gone over and was located in just one small area of the wood (image on left).

"Mantles Heath is also ancient woodland and again had some interesting records. One surprise was seeing a large bush of Philadelphus coronarius (Mock-orange) on the wood edge bordering the road and it did not look planted this time around. Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel) was noted in a number of places while Ranunculus auricomus (Goldilocks Buttercup) and Lysimachia nemorum (Yellow Pimpernel) were also recorded.

Clumps of Orpine on the road verge
Image: B. Laney
"One nice surprise was Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage) which for us in Northamptonshire is still classed as rare as mentioned in the Flora of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough (Gent/Wilson 2012). It was found growing on the embankments of a small stream near the wood edge bordering the golf course. There are records for Vicia sylvatica (Wood Vetch) from Mantles Heath as recorded by myself in the noughties, but the small clearing where it once grew is now sadly chocked up with brambles and no Wood Vetch was located.

Seedling of  Shepherd's Needle
Image: B. Laney
"After the meeting in the pouring rain I went to check the edges of a couple of bean crops near Boddington Reservoir to see if I could re-find Scandix pecten-veneris (Shepherd's-needle) of which the last record was mine back in 2005. There are only two other current sites in Northamptonshire for this species. To my sheer delight I saw at least 18 seedlings, which is brilliant news".

Shepherd's Needle is a really nice record, and the meeting sounds fun (weather notwithstanding), but it's a shame if Vicia sylvatica has been lost from the site. 

Want to send us a report of any recording that you are doing on your home patch?  

Sunday 11 May 2014

Botanical snippets for May

Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris
Sepals are not reflexed; pedicel is not groovy
Image: J. Crellin
A few things I've spotted in the past few days:

Article in the Irish Times on putting a value on nature - see also this post with comments by Oliver Rackham

Some great resources on the Wildflower Society website, like this Guide to Bittercresses. Very helpful if you are just getting to grips with this genus.

And for anybody starting out on identifying Bulbous, Meadow and Creeping Buttercups, this post (written by a BSBI member) is well worth a read. 

Leaf of Meadow Buttercup
Image: J. Crellin
For fabulous photos of plants, try this website run by John Crellin, BSBI Blogger and one of two County Recorders for Brecknockshire. [The other is Mike Porter]. 

Info on botany courses at various skill levels is available on the Linnean Society website. If you want to find out about a new post-graduate course in plant pathology, click here.

Tim Rich spotted this nice video on plants and evolution.

Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus
Groovy pedicel; sepals usually become reflexed
Image: J. Crellin
On 17th May, the second Festival of Plants is being held at Cambridge Botanic Gardens - details here.

The National Bioblitz Network has revamped its website and there is now a calendar showing where Bioblitzes are taking place this year. If your local botany group is thinking of having a stand at a Bioblitz this summer, we can provide you with BSBI display material. Email me to find out what is available and make a booking.

If you spot anything that you think might interest other botanists, send me the link and I'll add it to the next bunch of snippets.

And if you want to see more of this sort of thing, try clicking here and scroll down. 

Thursday 8 May 2014

South Yorks. Botany Group: the Inaugural Meeting

The SYBG inaugural meeting
Image: L. Hill
I think Mel Linney deserves a huge round of applause for setting up a new botany group in South Yorkshire and attracting so many botanists to the inaugural meeting for vascular plants. The group had a few cryptogam meetings last winter, to test the waters, but this was the big one: advertised in the Field Meetings Programme and via the group's webpage. How many people would turn out, and which plants would they find? Mel has sent us this report:  

"Twenty three Botanists assembled for the group's inaugural meeting at Sandbeck Park, the 16th century family home of the Earls of Scarbrough on Saturday 26th April. 

"After introductions,  the party visited the now derelict walled garden where Narcissus poeticus (Pheasants Eye Daffodil) and Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake) was observed before proceeding to the lake; the area around the lake is a botanical cornucopia with something of interest for every speciality. Some plants found included Campanula trachelium (Nettle-leaved Bellflower), Salix x holosericea (Silky-leaved Osier), Viscum album (Mistletoe) and Fritillaria meleagris (Fritillary) along with its white variant. 

"The final tally of more than 150 species with eight on the Red Data Project list made this a very satisfying morning. For lunch, the group relocated to Roche Abbey, a Cistercian monastry until the dissolution in 1536. The afternoon session around the Abbey and later at Norwoods (SSSI) realised a list in excess of 150 species which included Helleborus viridis (Green Hellebore), Ribes alpinum (Mountain Currant), Rubus saxatalis (Stone Bramble) and Gagea lutea (Yellow Star -of -Bethlehem). 

"The weather was kind, the company superb and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. The group would like to thank Rotherham Naturalists Society for organising the day but most of all a big thank you goes to Lord and Lady Scarbrough for giving access to a beautiful part of South Yorkshire that is Sandbeck Park.

To me, this shows how well the South Yorks Botany Group understands the importance of networking, and how brilliantly they have done this! 

By building strong links with other local groups, landowners and authorities/agencies, botanists can gain access (for the duration of the meeting only) to sites where they can see nice plants; more people get to find out what BSBI botanists do and how nice they are (!); and of course all those species the group recorded will feed into the BSBI database of what grows where and how this is changing over time. 

Their next meeting will be at Wombwell Wood on 17th May and you can contact Mel if you wish to attend. The bluebells may be over by then, so S. Yorks botanists may have to make do with these virtual Bluebells, courtesy of our President - thanks Ian!

Friday 2 May 2014

Hawthorn ID video from Lliam

Crataegus monogyna
Image: L. Rooney
Lliam Rooney has just completed another ID video. This one is for native Hawthorns Crataegus spp. and you can view it here on YouTube or by clicking on the link above. 

There are now eight of Lliam's videos that you can use to help you with identifications; they can all be accessed by clicking on the links at the head of this page.

Not sure what Lliam will turn his attention to next. Now that the botanical season is well underway, he will probably want to be out in the field with the Kent Botanical Recording Group. They have a lot of recording to do this year towards Atlas 2020 and they are also updating their Rare Plant Register for the county. And there is work on the Pocock Herbarium for rainy days! 

Kent is a great example of an established local botany group, and their BSBI webpage, their Facebook page and annual publication Kent Botany are well worth a look, wherever you live!