Sunday 15 November 2015

BSBI training grants help budding botanists. Part three.

Another budding botanist has been in touch to tell us about the BSBI training grant she received, the course she was able to attend and what she learned. Over to BSBI grant recipient Rozanna Shah:

Wild strawberry with pointed leaf tip -
points out that there will be strawberries here!
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"I was very lucky to receive a grant from BSBI to study higher plants on a Fields Studies Council identification course. I was already undertaking a post-graduate certificate in countryside management with Manchester Metropolitan University and wanted to focus on developing my botany with the FSC courses that were set units as part of the course. I chose a woodland plants course run by Nick Law at Preston Montford. It looked fascinating due to the variety of plants and habitats covered in the course and in the beauty of the Shropshire hills. 

"Nick was an extremely knowledgeable and engaging tutor and ecologist at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. He started out with an evening session on identification skills, using keys and guides and also gave us a couple of evening sessions covering the detail of mosses, liverworts and ferns.

Barren Strawberry with a depressed terminal tooth:
 you will be depressed too if you go to this plant
hoping to find a strawberry!
Image courtesy of Floral Images

"Nick planned a thorough route through some fascinating woodlands including lowland beech, sessile oak woods and then wet alder woodlands, ensuring we stopped and covered any species seen spontaneously. 

"He had a great set of diagrams and lists of diagnostic features to distinguish between other similar looking species and this I found the most useful aspect, I won’t be confusing sessile and pedunculate oak in the future for example. The features were very clear and many were not in ID guides so comprehensive notes were needed.

"I was intrigued to discover plants I wouldn’t have considered as woodland flowers and some of the clear diagnostic features once they were pointed out. For example, Barren and Wild strawberries which could be distinguished by simply comparing leaf tips. 

Early dog-violet with a darker spur
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"And one of my favourite features were the darker and lighter spurs of Violets which indicated whether they were common or the early dog-violet, seemingly simple features but on the surface species appearing very similar. Other great ID tips included dark marks on fern scales and kidney or J-shaped indusia or spores! This I found particularly helpful for collecting specimens for my subsequent coursework on ferns.

Common dog-violet with a paler spur
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"Nick also tested us throughout the course and stopped us at bridges as the ‘Grumpy Old Man’ that wouldn’t let us past until we got a question right, whether it be correcting our Latin names and family associations or diagnostic features to split up associated plants and remember them more easily. 

"As difficult as being put on the spot was, it was a great way to revise on what we had learnt so far as there was so much amount of information to digest.

"We also covered ancient woodland indicator species and over 70 species and 30 families in total over the course of the weekend and it was a fabulous introduction to some difficult groups such as ferns and mosses, which are actually crucial for some detailed woodland surveying I would go on to assist with for consultancy. This includes NVC surveys which rely heavily on ground flora and mosses to categorise habitats into specific communities".

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