Wednesday 24 May 2017

Review of a training course on grasses, sedges and rushes

Dominic demonstrates grass characters
Image: R. Mabbutt 
BSBI member Richard has sent us a review of a training course he attended recently for grasses, sedges and rushes. Over to Richard:

"This is the year I've decided to tackle my Achilles heel; grasses, sedges and rushes. 

"I needed some kind of foundation course, so I followed the links on the BSBI Training page and found a one-day course run by the Species Recovery Trust on 'Early Season/Vegetative Grass and Sedge Identification'. I had already seen a video on YouTube by Dominic Price (the tutor) about grasses and was impressed, so I booked.

"The day started at Old Sarum, Salisbury with Dominic talking us through the vegetative properties of five grasses, showing us the characters to look for. We then had to find these five species for ourselves, and talk through the characters we found. For me this was a little difficult and I found three out of the five but fumbled at naming them.

"Next up was a slightly different area that was banked with completely different species, and this contained the three oat grasses. I did a little better this time and managed to name three out of the five - like anything in botany, practising over and over again is necessary to nail it. My confidence was gaining a little.

Lying down to inspect the "lawn"
Image: R. Mabbutt
"We then moved on to what just looked like lawn, and following our tutor’s example, we all lay down for a good inspection. I was surprised at just how many species were there. Much discussion was had and we bombarded Dominic with questions, all of which he answered.

"After the grass introductions we were split into groups of three and given a little patch to name the species. It was only about 4 square metres and we managed to find and name eleven species. I felt a little better working with others: our pooled knowledge worked well as we bounced thoughts and ID tips off each other.

"A quick stop for some ice cream and the rest of the afternoon was spent doing little patches in different areas, seeing just how many species could be ID'd.

Specimens for examination
Image: R. Mabbutt
"All in all I came away with a fair few pointers and a completely different insight into the world of grasses and sedges. I’ll be putting what I learned into practice when I’m out square-bashing for Atlas 2020 and surveying my NPMS squares

"I also have a four day grass/sedge/rush course with Mark Duffell (Field Studies Council) booked for July, and I’ll be attending Mike Porter’s Sedge workshop on 10th June, so I’ll be looking forward to passing on some useful ID tips to beginner botanists on the Botany for Beginners course. I attended the course last year and, as promised, I’m back again this year as a ‘Botanical Buddy’ (a volunteer assistant tutor). I’ll keep you all posted on how I get on with grasses, sedges and rushes this year!" 

Thanks Richard, looking forward to the next instalment of your mission to get to grips with grasses, sedges and rushes.

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