Thursday 13 September 2018

Dublin BSBI excursions

About to set off botanising in Castletown Estate
Image: C. Clarke
Today's guest blogpost is from Irish botanist Cliona. She was a bit apprehensive about leading a local botany group meeting for the first time. So, how did she get on? Read on to find out:

"Those of you from outside the Dublin area might not know this, but Dublin has its very own botanical group. And what a group it is! This year I had the pleasure of leading two botanical outings: one at Castletown Estate in Celbridge and the other at Ballynafagh Lake outside Prosperous. Both are glorious locations with lovely plants and very different habitats. Both outings are over now so I can look back fondly and reminisce about some of the things I’ve learned and enjoyed. This is just a little write-up about those trips and why my worries about leading a group for the first time were unfounded.

Hypericum hirsutum
Image courtesy of John Crellin/ Floral Images
"It’s totally fine not to know everything even if you’re leading a group, I must admit I felt I wouldn’t be up for the task at hand and would encounter too many plants that were beyond my identification skills. This wasn’t the case at all, and even when we did come across some strange unidentified green life-form, this only meant it was time to break out the plant keys! I’m surprised to say that one of the nicest parts of leading a group is finding something that everyone is uncertain about. It’s a chance to slow down, talk, reorganise your thoughts and of course share a refreshing sense of botanical camaraderie.

"I’m sorry to say one of the biggest mistakes I made was being far too over prepared. That might sound silly; I mean how can you be too over prepared? Well you can check out every inch of a site before bringing a group there or key out everything within a three mile radius (Kidding). Recording everything in advance also defeats the purpose of leading a recording group in the same area. Overall it was a pleasant experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in leading a group. Botanists are lovely people so be confident and lead on!

A bit of mud and rain
never stopped a botanist!
Image: C. Byrne
"The Castletown Estate event was held on a lovely bright sunny day in late June, people came along to enjoy not only the plants but also the sun and scenery of this beautiful area. Castletown is made up of parklands and a large Palladian style house built in the 1720’s. On site there are a number of habitats; arable land, woodland, a wildflower meadow and the River Liffey flowing along its boundary. Although the parklands are managed as a public amenity and often brimming with people, they are still home to a few rarities.

"We were delighted to find Hairy St. John's-wort Hypericum hirsutum enjoying the sweltering heat; maybe a week later and these hairy plants would have been in flower for us to enjoy. We were content to see a faint glimmer of yellow petals emerging between the sepals. Each area of the park had its own merits; the meadow was brimming with grasses, yellow-rattle and many other flowering herbs, the woodland in the park provided a much needed reprieve from the never-ending sunshine and the ha-has (a strange landscape design) were brimming with biodiversity. One of the highlights of the day was sitting down to a pleasant lunch with lovely people overlooking the beautiful River Liffey; it doesn’t get much better that that!

Pyrola rotundifolia
Image courtesy of John
Crellin/ Floral Images
"The second outing to Ballynafagh Lake was a walk in the park (pun intended) due to my now extensive experience of leading one whole previous excursion; well truthfully it was due to the appearance of the one and only Rory Hodd. Thanks Rory. No plant went unidentified (with the exception of one awkward willow but I think that is very forgivable!). What this outing lacked in sunshine, it made up for in interesting plants. We admired all sorts of boggy wonders on the day and even saw Round-leaved Wintergreen Pyrola rotundifolia and two very impressive patches of Variegated Horsetail Equisetum variegatum. We practised our berry foraging skills along the way, munching on bilberries, raspberries and blackberries.

"Most importantly I want to thank all those who have taken the time to come along to any of the Dublin BSBI outings; I hope you had a fabulous time! Anyone interested in coming to one of our future events, please email to be added to our list".

Thanks Cliona - now that you have two botany meetings under your belt as leader, there will be no stopping you!

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