Monday 24 July 2017

Ely Wildspace survey

Branched Bur-reed
Image: M. Frisch
Last time we heard from Cambridge botanist Monica Frisch, she was at the Cambridge Conversazione reporting on the various botanical exhibits, but a few days later she was back out in the field again. Here's her latest report: 

"On Saturday 15th July 2017 the Cambridge Flora Group surveyed Ely Wildspace. This included Ely Common, Roswell Pits and various meadows alongside the River Ouse, all now part of the Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI. This area, about 85 hectares (though we did not explore all of them), includes parts designated for their geological importance and for their breeding birds. But there was plenty of interest to occupy eleven botanists, including some of Cambridgeshire’s most experienced:  Alan Leslie and Jonathan Shanklin, the County Recorders, Chris Preston, Mark Hill and Owen Mountford who is working on a Fenland Flora.

"Guided by local expert Tim Inskipp, we started looking at the eastern part of Ely Common, which was the more diverse part when surveyed by Tanner & Vejakob (Nature in Cambridgeshire, 2014). It is mainly rough grassland but improved as a result of the addition of hay from nearby Chettisham Meadow. One benefit was the appearance, earlier this year, of Green-winged Orchid. That was over but we did see one of the patches of Adder’s-tongue Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum. There was lots of Hoary Ragwort Senecio erucifolius growing tall and lush.

Image: M. Frisch
"Having more or less circumnavigated the common we meandered down and along the wooded banks of the western edge of Roswell Pits, stopping to debate the differences between the two yellow-flowered melilots and concluding that the one that we were finding was Tall Melilot Melilotus altissimus. There was plenty of Purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, a plant I consider looks particularly attractive silhouetted against water, masses of Teasel, mostly at the stage where not all the flowers had opened, resulting in bands of blue on the inflorescence. There was plenty of Upright Hedge Parsley Torilis japonica the more delicate successor to Cow Parsley and surprising amounts, to me, of Stone Parsley Sison amomum though most of us could not smell the nutmeg as well as petrol which some books say are meant to characterise the species.

"Tim Inskipp was able to let us into a meadow closed off, apparently for safety reasons, to the general public, though the danger of falling into the watery pit seemed no greater there than elsewhere. We looked at the brambles, with Alan Leslie concluding one was probably close to a hybrid of Rubus caesius x ulmifolius. I enjoyed seeing lots of bright pink Centaury Centaurium erythraea and it was a pleasant spot to stop and eat our lunch.

Rumex maritimus (on left), R. conglomeratus
 (on right); in between: R. x knafii
Image: M. Frisch 
"Most of the afternoon was spent exploring the meadows alongside the River Great Ouse where the experts debated about carices and studied the docks, finding three different hybrids amongst the mass of species: Rumex x schulzei (R. crispus x conglomeratus) which had been previously recorded, in 2007,  Rumex x knafii (R. conglomeratus x maritimus) and Rumex x pratensis (R. crispusobtusifolius). Easier to recognise was Orange Foxtail Alopecurus aequalis living up to its name. This was an exciting record as it hadn't been seen in the hectad since 1855. Also fairly distinctive, for an umbellifer, was Tubular Water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa.

"For me other highlights were the Branched Bur-reed Sparganium erectum subsp. neglectum showing flowers and fruits at different stages, seeing Sweet Flag Acorus calamus for the first time and in flower, some unexpected seaside plants on a road verge, and a new crucifer: Bastard Mustard Rapistrum rugosum on the verge of Lisle Lane.

"All in all, an enjoyable and successful day, which added about 50 species to the list for Ely Wildspace, as well as helping with recording for the Fenland Flora". 

Thanks Monica! We're always keen to share what botanists are seeing out in the field - just send a short report like Monica's to and we'll be delighted to publish it on these pages. 

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