Wednesday 30 July 2014

Hebridean Recording Extravaganza 2014 has started!

Mary, Claudia, Margaret and Paul:
 examining the roadside vegetation
Image: L. Marsh
A growing number of VC Recorders are organising recording weeks, where botanists assemble in a distant part of the country, taking over a hotel or hiring a house, and spend every day in the field recording plants and every evening checking their identifications, pressing specimens and packing up the trickiest ones to send off to BSBI Referees. 

But, as far as I know, only Paul Smith, VCR for the Outer Hebrides, organises a three-week long house party every summer - and the house is always filled to capacity. Last year we had to have two houses to fit us all in! This year, there are twelve of us helping Paul, and several squares have already been well and truly bashed. 

Triglochin palustre by the roadside
Image: P. Smith
Yesterday we botanised along the road near the house - in the Outer Hebrides, this is more interesting than it sounds! Last year, we found so much Carex maritima Curved Sedge (a Red Data List species) along one roadside that we decided to rename the plant Kerb Sedge. Although the BSBI Sedge Handbook describes this as a "rare plant of sandy coasts", the subsequent comment "able to withstand salt spray and silt accretion to a limited extent" may give a clue as to why it can grow happily along a Hebridean road! 

Aquatics afficianado Claudia ignores the lovely lochan
 behind her and talks ligules with Paul.
Image: L. Marsh 
Yesterday we found another plant that hasn't read the book either. Triglochin palustre Marsh Arrow-grass was growing along a road verge that didn't seem particularly marshy, and who are we to order it to grow elsewhere?

You'll be glad to hear that Claudia Ferguson-Smyth, the photographer whose images grace the cover of New Journal of Botany, has already taken some amazing close-up photographs of some of the plants we've seen and has kindly agreed that we can use some of them here, so watch this space!

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