Friday 29 April 2016

New BSBI News out now

The latest issue of BSBI News has been published and a print copy should be winging its way towards you very soon if you're a BSBI member

If not - or if you simply can't wait - here's a preview of what to expect in the latest issue:

David Pearman and John Edgington on Kerry Lily in Britain & Ireland. 

A note from Fred Rumsey on taxonomic changes to British cinquefoils. Is there no end to this man's talents? Fred was recently voted in as the new President of the British Pteridological Society and we'd like to congratulate him on this prestigious appointment. 

Two articles on Sea Lavender, one from Anglesey and one from Lancashire. 

Ian Bonner reports a sighting of Ophioglossum azoricum in Westerness.

A report on the New Year Plant Hunt with analysis (and some great tables!) by Kevin Walker. 

And lots lots more... Happy reading!

Wednesday 27 April 2016

New BSBI website, new BSBI member

Small-flowered Catchfly spotted by Mick,
Kelling, North Norfolk, 2015

ID confirmed by Tim Rich via Facebook
Image: Mick Lacey 
We've been making a few updates to the BSBI website over the past few weeks and yesterday we launched the refreshed site, without any hitches and to unanimous approval. This was all fine unless you were one of the people wanting to join BSBI just as the migration process started and had to wait for 90 minutes until it had finished! 

So, I nabbed the first new member to join BSBI via the new website, apologised for the brief delay and thought I'd take the opportunity to interview him for the delight of News & Views readers...  

LM: Welcome to new BSBI member Mick, who joined yesterday. Do you want to tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to join BSBI this year?

ML: Thanks Louise, well I live in Derbyshire but just outside the Peak District National Park and have always had an interest in wild flowers. As a teenager I got into birding, which I still do, but wild flowers take up more and more of my spare time. On a recent week in North Wales I certainly spent a lot more time looking down than up and its been like that for a few years now.

Purple Ramping-fumitory spotted last week
in Conwy, Wales.
ID confirmed by Tim Rich via Facebook
Image: Mick Lacey
LM: Ah, you've already adopted the famous "staring hopefully at the ground" stance so beloved of field botanists! And what are you particularly hoping to get out of your membership of BSBI? Was it our field meetings that attracted you, or opportunities to learn more about Plant ID? Or just for enjoyment, because you love British & Irish wild flowers and care about their conservation?

ML: Just to learn more on all counts. I think that as you learn more and get deeper into botany you realise how little you actually do know, or that's how I feel at least. I love flower landscapes but also find the factors affecting distribution of certain plants fascinating. I must confess to enjoying the hunt for a new species, but the best days are finding something that you didn't expect.

LM: I agree, spotting a plant you haven't noticed before or something growing in the "wrong" place can be just as much fun as seeing a rare plant! So how did you first hear about BSBI? 

ML: I hadn't heard of the BSBI until probably the start of last year and that was through the Facebook "Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland" page. I noticed that many of the more knowledgeable contributors were members of the BSBI.

LM: Yes, you'll find some familiar names on our webpages and many of them can also be found on social media of an evening, helping people with plant identifications and pointing them to (free) botanical resources and BSBI Publications. But dare I ask, what put you off joining BSBI until now?

ML: I am not sure why it's took me a year to join, possibly because it does seem a society of very knowledgeable people, professional botanists and I am clearly not at that level, I will only ever be an enthusiastic amateur.

LM: Yes we do have a lot of very knowledgeable members, and they are perhaps more visible on social media, but what makes BSBI so special is that since 1836 our members have been a mixture of amateur and professional botanists, with skills ranging from beginner to expert level. And we are very keen on working together and helping each other hone our ID skills. 

Here's what Mick might expect to find
 in his BSBI membership pack.
This pack was sent to Dave when he joined last year
and he shared this pic via Twitter.
Image: Dave Steere
If you come along to one of our national field meetings this year, you should pick up some great ID tips from those experts. But you'll also meet absolute beginners who will be picking up ID tips from you! You may also want to check out the plant ID courses on our training page to see if any appeal to you, and I think you'll like the 'So You Want to Know Your Plants' leaflet - some very helpful pointers in there! Let us know what you think.  

ML: I have already been looking through various links on the website and it all looks very interesting. I am already looking forward to receiving my membership pack, so thank you.

LM: Mick, thanks for talking to News & Views readers and for joining BSBI - apologies again about the short delay! Can I invite you to come back later in the year and give us an honest opinion on how your first year as a member is going? Tell us what you like about BSBI and also anything you think we could do be doing differently? A fresh pair of eyes can be really helpful, whether you're trying to key out a plant or weighing up the value of a £30 annual subscription! 

ML: Of course Louise, you are welcome. 

LM: One final question, as you're the first person to join BSBI using the form on our new website: Was the process quick and painless?

ML: It was very easy, the whole process, including filling out the application form only took a few minutes. The hardest part was remembering my Paypal password!

LM: And you can also use the Paypal button even if you don't have a Paypal account and password! Thanks again Mick and welcome to BSBI :-)

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Help needed to sample Black Locust

Black Locust 1
Image: X. Boutellier
We've had a request for help from a French botanist. Over to Xavier Bouteiller to tell us more: 

"Hello, I'm starting a PhD at the University of Bordeaux. I’m studying biological invasion by the black locust Robinia pseudoacacia focusing on evolutionary biology and genetic of populations’ aspects. 

"One main question in my research is: what is patterns of genetic structure of populations both in native and in introduced range?

Black Locust 2
Image: X. Boutellier
"In order to study the genetic diversity of the black locust, I sampled several populations of black locust thoughout the European range, but unfortunately I won't be able to sample a population in Great Britain. 

"However, because first introduction of black locust in Europe occured approximately at the same time in France and England at the beginning of the XVII century, it would be very interesting if I could add one or two sampling plots in Great Britain.

Black Locust  3
Image: X. Boutellier
"Thus, I'm looking for someone that would agree to sample for me one or two populations of black locust. I'm looking for a population growing in "natural" or "semi-natural" condition. 

"I need to sample leaves of 20 individuals per population. A minimal distance of 40 m should be kept among trees in order to avoid sampling clones, and I need one leaf per individual. I attach a detailed protocol.

"I can send the sampling material (plastic boxes, silica gel, filter paper), moreover I can arrange the return transport using our UPS account if you wish.

"If you are interested you can contact me at : 
Best regards

Xavier Bouteiller"

BSBI botanists have been very helpful in the past - when Ollie wanted mildewed leaves or when Amanda wanted sycamore leaves afflicted with tarspot - so I hope that somebody will be able to help again this time. Please contact Xavier direct if that somebody is you.

Monday 25 April 2016

Latest news from the National Plant Monitoring Scheme

Click here to download
a copy of the newsletter
The first annual newsletter from the National Plant Monitoring Scheme has just been published and it's great to see how much progress was achieved during the first year of the scheme. 
  • 1,168 squares (1km x 1km) allocated to surveyors;
  • 1,800+ monitoring plots for which data on wildflower abundance has been received;
  • 39 training sessions to support NPMS participants.
There's an article in the newsletter by BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker. Kevin has been a key player in the NPMS since its inception, but the best way to test a scheme is to take part yourself so as well as shaping how the scheme would work for participants, Kevin has also taken on several squares himself. He and fellow members of the team behind the NPMS will all be out in the field again this year monitoring plants on their home patch, just like the rest of us who signed up for the NPMS!

NPMS Training session
FSC Nettlecombe Park 2015
Image: H. New
A recurring theme with the NPMS is partnership. Not only is the scheme itself a partnership (between BSBI, CEH, JNCC and Plantlife) but the NPMS has gone on to reach out to other partners such as FSC's Tomorrow's Biodiversity programme. Find out more in the newsletter. 

NPMS co-ordinator Hayley New said "The NPMS is the first survey of its kind to enable us to get to grips with what is happening to plant communities in our best loved habitats. 

"We are hugely impressed with the dedication from our volunteers and supporters so far but there are still many more squares to survey. If you would like to get involved then please visit and click on Squares near me to find your nearest available survey patch".

Well said Hayley and congrats to you on the success of the first year of the NPMS. You're doing an amazing job and so are all our fabulous NPMS plant monitors and mentors! Here's the newsletter link again.

Friday 22 April 2016

Blink and you'll miss it!

Image: Jim Gardner
You don't often see Blinks in flower so when Jim spotted it blooming in Edinburgh, he just had to get a few photographs and share them on Twitter

Now, Jim is a lovely man so when I asked him if we could share the pix here on the News & Views page he said yes at once.

Thanks Jim and well spotted!

So here, for the benefit of readers who don't (yet) follow BSBI on Twitter are three images of blooming 
Blinks Montia fontana from Jim Gardner for your delight. And a bit of waffle from me as padding ;-)

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Image: Jim Gardner

Image: Jim Gardner

Monday 18 April 2016

It's Dandelion season!

Taraxacum retzii 
Image: Mark Lynes
There's a distinct Dandelion theme going on right now! 

A Dandelion Workshop has been taking place in Somerset over the weekend, led by BSBI's Dandelion expert Prof. John Richards.

Organisers Simon Leach and Steve Parker said: "Taraxacum (Dandelion) is without doubt the least well studied and understood of all our critical genera in Somerset, and records are very patchy. 

Dandelion-hunters in the field
Image: Mark Lynes 
"We know a tremendous amount about our ever-expanding list of Sorbus (Whitebeam) species, but not much at all about our Dandelions. The workshop aims to offer an opportunity for botanists to improve their identification and collecting skills, so they can contribute to our knowledge of dandelions in Somerset". 

Slide from Claudia's Dandelion presentation
Image: Mark Lynes 
I hear the Taraxacophiles have been visiting a range of sites from coastal sand dunes to  acidic grass-heath, including urban sites: many interesting Dandelions can be found in parks and along road verges. They have also been enjoying evening lab sessions to look more closely at specimens collected during the day.

On the Friday, Claudia Ferguson-Smyth gave the delegates a presentation on Dandelions, a great passion of hers. 

You may have seen her paper the other year in New Journal of Botany, co-authored with John Richards, describing a new species of dandelion on St. Kilda. 

Dandelion workshop with John & Claudia
Image: Mark Lynes
It was named Taraxacum pankhurstianum in honour of Richard Pankhurst, with whom many of us (Claudia and I included) have enjoyed happy days botanising in the Outer Hebrides. 

If you want to head out Dandelion-hunting, this is the time of year to do it! 

You'll need this crib for Dandelions in general and here are the cribs for the various sections:  CelticaErythrosperma; Hamata; Naevosa; Palustria; Ruderalia

Happy hunting! 

Thursday 14 April 2016

Join BSBI botanists for our Annual Summer Meeting

Bog Rosemary, present at Orton Moss -
one of the Summer Meeting fieldtrips
Image courtesy of John Crellin
Have you already booked for this year's Summer Meeting, being held at FSC Blencathra (Cumbria) next month?

Yesterday I caught up with Jon Shanklin, BSBI Field Meetings Secretary who is organising the Summer Meeting this year, and he told me: "The accommodation at FSC Blencathra is now fully booked but people can still book to attend the fieldtrips and to have dinner. 

"We'll be travelling to the Friday locations by coach so people do still need to get in touch with me if they'd like to book a space. They would also be welcome to join us for dinner each evening and for the after-dinner talks we have lined up for Thursday and Friday evening. 

"After dinner on Saturday and Sunday, we will be holding identification sessions to look at any of the more challenging specimens collected during the fieldtrips. 

Jon Shanklin (on right) with new BSBI Council
member Martin Godfrey.
Meeting of BSBI Council, 13/4/2016
Image: L. Marsh
Again, non-residents are welcome to join us for these. Contact me to book or for further information".

Many thanks to Jon for this update and here's the link again to more info about the Summer Meeting. 

Apparently there are other options for
accommodation in the area and non-residents will be spending most of their waking hours looking at plants and hanging out with fellow botanists. So it's still well worth coming along but you do need to book by the end of April please.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

State of the World’s Plants symposium at RBG Kew, May 2016

Only one week left if you'd like to register for the first international State of the World’s Plants symposium. It takes place on 11th-12th May at RBG Kew to tie in with the launch of a  ground breaking new report. 

Over to Mimi Tanimoto to tell us more: 

"Beginning in 2016, the annual State of the World's Plants report will provide baseline data on important indicator metrics that will tell us how plants are faring and how this is changing over time. As well as showing present status, the report will be forward-looking with horizon scanning to identify important emerging issues and research and knowledge gaps.

The symposium will provide a platform for scientists and policymakers to discuss issues raised in the report.  Global leaders will gather to address key themes including:

-Threats to plant health
-Climate change
-Useful plants
-Invasive plants
-Protected areas
-Extinction risk.

Join us to take stock of the world’s plant diversity, research and trends.

Registration: £120

The registration fee includes attendance, lunch and refreshments on both days and a drinks reception during the poster session on 11 May.
Deadline for registration: 20 April 2016.

For more information and to register, please visit the symposium website

Friday 8 April 2016

Wildflower of the Month: Bluebell

Scottish Bluebell or Harebell
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
Bluebells are coming into bloom across the country - we've already had reports of them in flower as far north as Ipswich and Monmouthshire, so they should be out further north later this month. 

But can we be sure which Bluebell we are looking at? 

Common names of plants are not always helpful here. The Scottish Bluebell or Harebell is not confined to Scotland, although it might become so in the future - Harebells are in decline in England and were classified as Near Threatened on the 2014 England Red List

Scottish populations appear to be doing fine. 

Keep a look out for Harebells later in the summer, once the English and "Spanish Bluebells" have finished flowering. 

English Bluebell
Image courtesy of J. Crellin
The "English Bluebell" should really be called British Bluebell as this distribution map shows - the UK has around 50% of the world's bluebell woods. 

The true English Bluebell, the Spanish Bluebell and the hybrid (which is also the most common "Bluebell" planted in gardens) have distinctive differences which help us tell them apart but they will keep on hybridising! 

The offspring can look like a mixture of mummy and daddy (or granny and grandpa) but it's not always easy to tell!

Here's a beginners' guide to identifying which bluebell is which:

Scottish Bluebell or Harebell flowers later and has a pale blue flower which nods in the breeze. It’s more closely related to Bellflowers.

English Bluebell has the lovely scent, flowerhead made up of lots of dark blue flowers on one side so the whole flower bends over. Boy bits in middle of flowers are cream-coloured. Leaves are narrower than the hybrid (often called "Spanish Bluebell" but it isn't - the genuine Spanish Bluebell looks quite different, with more divided petals, and you don't see it so often in the UK).

Hybrid "Spanish" Bluebell
Image courtesy of J. Crellin
The hybrid Bluebell is more robust, paler blue flowers and not much scent. Flowers are all round the stem so it’s more upright. Boy bits are blue. 

More info on how to tell bluebells apart here and here.

We're asking people to keep an eye out for Bluebells this month and you can tweet your photos of them to @BSBIbotany using the hashtags #WildflowerHour and  #WildfloweroftheMonth

You can use this link to see maps of where the various species of Bluebell grow:
And this one for more info about each of the species:

Just type the common name into the search box.

I'll be talking about Bluebells to Fiona Stalker on BBC Radio Scotland's 'Out for the Weekend' programme this afternoon and encouraging plant-lovers to get out Bluebell- spotting this spring and let us know what they find. 

So now you have a great excuse to take a leisurely walk around your local bluebell woods, inhaling deeply (to confirm your identification of English Bluebell, of course!) Don't forget to keep a straight face and refer to this activity as Engaging in Scientific Research for the BSBI. Heaven forbid that anyone should think you were off playing in the woods and sniffing pretty flowers...

Monday 4 April 2016

Botanical snippets for April

A few things spotted in the past few weeks which may be of interest to botanists:

Roger Horton shows Sandy Knapp how easily
 one can be 'fooled by Babington' -  the title of
his exhibit at the 2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: W. Arshad
A meeting of plant evolutionary biologists is planned for this September in Cambridge. The aim of the two-day meeting is to "strengthen and build the community of plant evolutionary biologists in the UK". Speakers already booked include Dr Sandy Knapp - view the programme and find booking details here

Good news for plant recorders in London. The South London Botanical Institute has been awarded £99,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the restoration of its historic herbarium. Read more here about the new 'Plant Recording for All Ages' project which the grant will make possible.

Flora Donald (on right) with Geoffrey Hall and
other members of Paul Smith's Recording Team,
South Uist, August 2013
Image: L. Marsh 
Herbaria are not only valuable for checking plant specimens - they can inspire artists as well as scientists! Check out how a visit to the Herbarium at Manchester Museum inspired photographer Megan to look at ferns in a new light.  

An interesting article in Horticulture Week last month on woodland recolonisation following clearance of Rhododendron

The Uist Botany Group goes from strength to strength. Formed in 2013 after local botanist Flora Donald met up with Paul Smith's Hebridean Recording Team at a local Bioblitz, the group has now joined forces with Outer Hebrides Biological Recording. So, as well as recording plants for Atlas 2020, Flora and fellow Uist botanists are learning more about other wildlife occurring in the Outer Hebrides