Sunday, 19 May 2019

Wild thyme: controlling nightmares, flavouring honey and in Byron's Gin

Wild thyme
Image courtesy of John Crellin/ Floral Images
http://www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=thymus_polytrichus,1
Wild thyme has historically been used as a culinary and medicinal herb. In the Outer Hebrides in the C19th, a decoction was commonly taken for dyspepsia. Flora Celtica tells us that wild thyme tea was widely used in the Highlands and on Shetland; it was "prized as a stimulant and for its alleged ability to control nightmares". It gives a distinctive flavour to Colonsay honey, where bees forage on the wildflowers of the machair, and it has even been used in herbal tobacco substitutes.

Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles 4th ed. lists five thymes recorded in the wild in Britain & Ireland. There's garden thyme Thymus vulgaris, with leaf margins curled backwards; lemon thyme T.x. carolipaui, with a distinct lemon scent; large thyme T. pulegioides which has a scattered distribution and can be identified by having hairs on all four angles of the lower stems; and T. serpyllum Breckland thyme, found in c22 sites in Suffolk and Norfolk. The species used in Byron's Gin is the more common wild thyme Thymus drucei, which can be identified by checking the lower part of the stems: it has hairs on two of the four faces, but the other two are hairless.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Send us your pearlworts!

Sea pearlwort growing inland -
between brick paving
Image: M. Wilcox
In March we told you that Mike Wilcox wanted your ivy-leaved speedwells! He still does and it's not too late to send him specimens - many thanks to those who have already done so.

But now Mike wants your pearlworts. He told me "Sea pearlwort Sagina maritima  may be more frequent inland as a halophyte (a salt-tolerant plant). Road verges and or waste ground near roads etc. should be searched. Any plants rooting at the nodes will be the much more common procumbent pearlwort S. procumbens. However, in small rosette-like plants where they are not rooting at the nodes they could be either (some may be more upright). 

"As part of a study looking into useful characters for these two in difficult situations, please collect fresh voucher specimens and send to the address below – photos of the plant and close-ups of fruiting heads would be useful: 
Michael Wilcox: 43 Roundwood Glen, Greengates, Bradford, BD10 0HW. 
For S. maritima, any specimens from the usual (coastal) habitats would also be welcome".

Sea pearlwort has recently been found on two road-verges in Leicestershire - about as far from the coast as you can get! - so it could turn up anywhere: keep your eyes peeled and send those specimens to Mike.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

BSBI News: April issue is published

This blogpost should have gone out hours ago but I made the mistake of opening up my advance copy of the latest issue of BSBI News - just so I could find out what was in there and report to all of you - and suddenly it's nearly midnight! 

There is just so much to read in the latest issue - 84 pages to delight botanists at all skill levels. Congratulations to editor Andrew Branson for doing such an amazing job.

The issue opens with an article by Simon Leach summarising recent amendments to the Red Data List for British plants -  which species have been added to the main list (this includes species new to Britain), which have been re-classified (Goldilocks Aster amended from Least Concern to Vulnerable, Diaphonous Bladder-fern makes the same journey in the opposite direction) and one very familiar species has been dropped from the Red List altogether...


Better not give away too many spoilers here! But it's probably a good time to remind readers that this latest issue of BSBI News is only available to BSBI members. It is one of the main perks of membership so if you haven't joined BSBI yet, head over here to read about some of the other benefits of membership and then here to subscribe. 

Your copy of BSBI News will be posted to you - along with a bumper welcome pack of delights - as soon as we've processed your subscription.


New Year Plant Hunters in Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
But BSBI News isn't just about Red Lists and new species, although Matt Berry's list of 'trending species' and new county records does make fascinating reading, as does the article by Andy Jones & Fred Rumsey about an over-looked species of Myosotis (forget-me-nots) which "seemed not to occur in Britain or Ireland" or Alexis Fitzgerald's note about the wool alien Toothed Fireweed making itself at home in Co. Dublin. 

This latest issue of BSBI News also has much to offer the beginner botanist or anyone with a more general interest in British and Irish wild flowers: there's an article on how to photograph wild flowers successfully; there's a note on how to "speak fern" which de-mystifies some of the jargon surrounding this lovely group of plants; and there's a summary of New Year Plant Hunt finds and how they correlate with changing weather patterns. 


Gagea bohemica
Find out more about this lovely plant in
the report from the BSBI Wales Officer
Image: B. Brown  
There are also round-ups from all four Country Officers, this issue's 'Introducing my vice-county' feature focuses on Montgomeryshire, and I haven't even mentioned the five short articles, the book reviews, the notes, such as the one about this year's BSBI Photographic Competition, the personal view on eradicating Himalayan Balsam, based on experiences in Angus... 

Oh did I tell you about all the flyers tucked inside the magazine, such as the pre-publication offer on the new Flora of Bute, exclusive to BSBI members? 

Or the mouth-watering colour photos of plants you just don't see every day...  

I could tell you more but if I'm honest I'd really like to get back to reading my copy of BSBI News now, so you'll just have to wait until your own copy arrives! 

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Herbarium Day for Somerset botanists

Jeanne Webb demonstrates pressing of specimens.
Image: G. Lavender
As regular readers will know, we are always keen on this blog - and across BSBI more generally - to big up anything to do with herbaria. Indeed our President Chris Metherell has made promoting herbaria rather a theme of his presidency! Check out the BSBI herbarium page set up by Chris.

So it was a pleasure to receive the below account by West Country botanists Graham Lavender and Simon Leach about the first meeting of the 2019 summer programme for the Somerset Rare Plants Group (SRPG). They showed exceptionally good taste by visiting their local herbarium!

Over to Graham and Simon:

"SRPG's summer programme started on 1st April with a meeting at the Somerset County Herbarium (TTN). This herbarium is based on material brought together originally by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society and stored in the museum at Taunton Castle. It is now housed at the Somerset Heritage Centre, Taunton, and under the day-to-day care of the South West Heritage Trust.

Herbarium pressed specimen of
Taraxicum oxoniense
Image: G. Lavender
"The herbarium has five SRPG members who volunteer once a week to curate the collection; in recent months they have been busy re-organising the specimens to bring them into line with modern taxonomy and nomenclature, and with families, genera and species now ordered according to the 3rd edition of Clive Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles (2010). They have also been repairing old sheets, putting sheets in new folders, and mounting and adding large numbers of specimens that have been donated by botanists currently working in the county. Four members of the herbarium team were on hand to give guided tours of the collection.

There has been much work done recently on Somerset’s dandelion (Taraxacum) flora, and the herbarium now houses more than 350 sheets of dandelions, accounting for about 140 of the 150-odd species so far recorded in the county. This collection is of increasing regional and national importance, and includes some fine specimens of a number of taxa rarely collected in Britain such as Taraxacum subericinum, T. pachylobum and T. pietii-oosterveldii.

"The focus of this first ‘herbarium day’ was indeed Taraxacum, and after an introduction by Simon Leach (joint County Recorder for South Somerset VC5), there was a talk on dandelion taxonomy and identification by Graham Lavender – concentrating on the various ‘sections’ into which dandelions are grouped to aid identification". [Ed.: check out the crib notes on the various Taraxacum sections in the Plant Crib to find out which characters you need to look for when putting dandelions into sections.]

Liz McDonnell showing
Taunton Herbarium specimens
Image: G. Lavender

"Members then had an opportunity to peruse the herbarium collection of dandelions. After lunch, a visit to the grounds of the Somerset Heritage Centre (and nearby waste ground) provided plenty of fresh material for us to work on. We learnt about how to spot a ‘good specimen’, how to collect it, and (back indoors) Jeanne Webb explained how to prepare specimens for pressing and drying". [Ed.: there's a really useful guide, by the legendary Arthur Chater, to pressing and drying herbarium specimens - download your free copy from the Herbarium webpage!]

"We took several plants through the relevant keys, including not only the ‘sectional’ key at the front of the BSBI Handbook on Taraxacum, but also the detailed ‘Plant Crib 3’ keys available on the BSBI website. We were introduced to dandelion terminology too, where terms like ‘ligule’ and ‘bract’, for example, do not refer to the same structures as they do in most other plants. Several attendees took away plants for working on at home.

Chris Metherell gets up close and personal
with eyebright specimens in the
Natural History Museum's herbarium
Image: J. Mitchley
"Numbers are limited for any meeting at the herbarium, and it has already been necessary by popular demand to put a draft entry in the SRPG 2020 programme for a second visit, possibly to concentrate on another group, e.g. grasses or sedges. At our winter meetings we have regularly been given short updates on the herbarium, but this was the first time that members had been given an opportunity to see it ‘in the flesh’. With thanks to the South West Heritage Trust for providing our meeting venue and for allowing us privileged ‘behind-the-scenes’ access to what is becoming an increasingly valuable and interesting collection".

A second visit by popular demand? Proof, if it were needed, that herbaria are wonderful places to which all botanists will flock, given half a chance! If you'd like to follow in SRPG's footsteps and arrange a visit to your local herbarium, you'll find a regularly updated contacts list on the Herbarium page. You'll also find many other herbarium-related articles, resources, links, images... so do check it out!

P.S. When I showed this draft blogpost to BSBI President Chris Metherell, he said: "Another great example of how useful herbaria can be for botanists of all abilities. Herbaria are at risk in the 21st century and it could be a case of 'use it or lose it' for some local collections so it's fantastic to see one being used in such a positive fashion. More herbarium experiences please!"

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

BSBI's Irish Spring Conference 2019: Part Two

Getting ready to get to grips with Callitriche ID
Image: F. O'Neill
In the first part of Erin's report on this year's Irish Spring Conference, we left her heading off for lunch following the morning's talks, having just heard Maria's announcement about the forthcoming Aquatic Plants Project. Erin picks up the story again: 

"Following on with the aquatic theme, I opted for the workshop on Callitriche/water-starworts over the Spring Blossoms tour. Callitriche is a difficult genus, occurring in a wide variety of habitats terrestrial, aquatic and semi amphibious with variable vegetative features as a result. Here to help demystify Callitriche was Lynda Weekes from IT Tralee. In order to appeal to the beginners and intermediates in the audience, Lynda focused on a simplified list of features of leaves and fruit suitable for use in the field. 

Callitriche herbarium specimens
Image: E. Griffin
"There are seven known Callitriche species in Ireland, C. truncata, C. stagnalis, C. platycarpa, C. palustris, C. obtusangula, C. hermaphroditica and C. brutia. Lynda pointed out that although leaves are a good indicator of species, they are quite variable and can change with habitat/water level. For example, C. obtusangula has leaves rhomboidal in shape in still water and linear in flowing water. In this case, fruits (and pollen for subspecies) are needed for positive identification. For C. obtusangula the fruit would noticeably have no keel, the grooves of the fruit hardly present to almost flat and when ripe the fruit would be as long as it is wide. After Lynda’s presentation, members took a closer look at Callitriche using herbarium specimens kindly provided by the National Botanic Gardens.

David starts his quiz
Image: O. Duffy
"Next up was quiz time with David McNeill! With rounds of 'guess the plant from its distribution' or three seemingly unrelated pictures, to naming prominent BSBI members, David had the entire conference putting their heads together. A nice break-up from the talks and a good opportunity to get to know your team members.

"Flash talks was everything I hoped it would be: a diverse range of topics, cut into bite size chunks and delivered in short bursts of 5-10 minutes. Over the course of 45 mins I learned about an up and coming book, a missing plant rediscovered and an entirely novel use for Google street view.

"Up first was Roger Goodwillie (County Recorder for Kilkenny) offering a rare glimpse of the winter Burren, a landscape famed for its flowering season. Roger took the time to walk us through the winter Burren and point out the plants and rare sights we don’t see when the Burren is at full bloom. Some notable mentions are Sedum acre (biting stonecrop), Sedum album (white stonecrop), trees covered in Ivy and liverwort, and the important grazers such as horses and cattle.

Daniel starts his flash talk about black poplars
Image: C. Heardman
"Daniel Buckley (Conservation Ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service) maps on Ireland’s rarest tree, the black poplar. Through the use of Google street view, an unlikely tool, Daniel was able to locate these distinctly shaped trees. This method allowed him to quickly find and later identify the species onsite. Daniel was able to improve upon the existing studies on black poplar which were vague and lacked resolution and even confirmed the tree's presence in Kerry. He also propagated a representative sample of black poplar in his garden in the name of conservation.

John Conaghan (County Recorder for west Galway) detailed his rediscovery of Silene acaulis (moss campion), a rare montane species that has been missing for the past 120 years. First recorded in 1839 by Charles Moore and recorded last at Dunaff head in East  Donegal, growing in a place ‘where not many people would care to linger over’. Enlisting the help of the local County Recorders, Mairéad Crawford and Oisín Duffy, John was able to rediscover S. acaulis on the east side of Dunaff head.

Mairead captured Oisin & John hunting toothworts
 in the Botanic Gardens during the lunch-break!
Image: M. Crawford
"Up next, Fionnuala O’Neill (BEC Consultants) gave an update on the conservation status of six rare vascular plants as part of a rare plant monitoring survey. The six plants mentioned were Trichomanes speciosum (Killarney fern), Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine clubmoss), Saxifraga hirculus (marsh saxifrage), Lycopodium clavatum (Staghorn clubmoss), Lycopodium inundatum (marsh clubmoss) and Huperzia selago (Fir clubmoss). The clubmoss group have suffered loss of habitat with agricultural improvement and drainage, the most threatened clubmoss being the marsh clubmoss due to its lowland habitat. The Killarney fern is of least concern because all its attributes are in good condition and the marsh saxifrage is near threatened because of habitat loss.

"Joe Caffrey (Inland Fisheries Ireland) talked about his up and coming book ‘Photographic guide to aquatic and riparian plants in Ireland’. The book, aimed at the general botanist, has documented over 250 species. A sneak peek at the pages which are mainly photos, and we could see a concise profile of habitat, useful diagnostic features, distribution, flowering period, ecology and even the species name in Irish. A useful aid for any botanists wishing to become more familiar with aquatic species.

Paul's dead-nettle workshop was very popular!
Image: O. Duggan
"‘20 sites, 20 species’ by Mark O’Callaghan (OPW and NPWS Guide at multiple sites) discussed the conservation work in nature reserves across Ireland. Unfortunately, I can’t list the full 20 but some notable mentions were Salvelinus alpinus (arctic char) in Glenveagh to the Cygnus cygnus (whooper swan) at Coolepark, Filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet) in the Burren and the Lagopus scotica (red grouse) in the Wicklow mountains. Mark emphasised the importance of the reserves to these species, while playing audio of the bird calls. A first at a BSBI conference!

"Finally, Noeleen Smyth (Botanist at the National Botanic Gardens) told the story of frankincense, a fascinating desert plant that has been heavily traded on the Arabian Peninsula for more than 6000 years, now a threatened species with poor regeneration. Typically used in embalming and religious ceremonies, frankincense became widespread through the silk trade and was once worth as much as gold in Rome. The trade has become largely uncontrolled and exploitative but thankfully the plant is soon to be listed within CITES. Noeleen passed some of the aromatic resin around the auditorium.

The master in action: Paul de-mystifying dead-nettles
Image: C. Heardman
"This was followed by a hands-on workshop with Paul Green (Country Recorder for Co. Wexford) on dead-nettles or a free slot to explore the gardens. Paul provided a key to dead-nettles and yellow archangels. The main dead-nettles in Ireland are Lamium album (White dead-nettle), Lamium maculatum (spotted dead-nettle), Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit dead-nettle), Lamium confertum (Northern Dead-nettle), Lamium purpureum (red dead-nettle) and Lamium hybridum (cut-leaved dead-nettle). The most difficult of these to differentiate are the cut-leaved, red and northern dead-nettle for their similar reddish-purple flower. Training your eye to the finer details is essential as the length of the calyx tube or slight differences between leaf veins can be all that separates you from proper identification. I really appreciated having an expert on-site to talk through the key and gained a greater appreciation for these workshops.

Happy botanists after a great conference!
Oonagh Duggan (Assistant Head of Advocacy
& Policy for BirdWatch Ireland)
takes a selfie with Ralph Sheppard,
County Recorder for West Donegal:
they are both birders as well as botanists! 
"To round off the day Maria Long announced the quiz results which crowned the team ‘The starworts’ (but with a star!) as the winners (not to be confused with the starworts without a star, which was my group!). Maria gave a special thanks to all the guest speakers and all who attended. The conference concluded with networking, food and drinks in the nearby pub.

"I really enjoyed attending my first BSBI conference. There was an aquatic theme throughout the event. It was really great to see the BSBI address this problem of under-recording and move forward with solutions. This is an excellent event for all levels of botanist, and as a newcomer I found the BSBI community very welcoming. The event allows plenty of time for networking and attracts a really great crowd. I am already looking forward to next year’s line-up. If you missed the conference, you can find many of the presentations on the conference webpage."

Many thanks to Erin for this report - we're delighted that she enjoyed her first BSBI Irish Conference!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

News from Arran

If you're a resident of, or a regular visitor to, the Clyde Islands, and you're planning to buy a copy of Angus Hannah's forthcoming Isle of Bute Flora - the first ever Flora for any of the Clyde Islands! - here comes another publication for this lovely part of the world. 

Arran's Flora, a fully revised 36-page checklist of all the flowers, ferns and conifers of this beautiful island, has just been published and is available from Summerfield Books for only £3 plus P&P. The author is Tony Church.

Arran is famous as the home of several rare whitebeams, one of which - Sorbus pseudomeinichii, the Catacol whitebeam - was featured last week in the Scottish national press. Read the article here.   

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Book now for the year's main botanical event in Wales!

Sand Catchfly at Pembrey Burrows
Image: R. Pryce
Bookings have opened for this year's Annual Meeting of Wales BSBI, which features some great talks, field excursions and much much more! I was chatting with Barbara Brown, BSBI Wales Officer, to try and find out about the "much more" so she went straight to the horse's mouth: below is a report Barbara has sent through from organisers Richard and Kath Pryce about what you can expect if you come to the Wales Annual Meeting, which runs from 21st to 23rd of May and is based at the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli. 

The images, on this page, taken by Richard, show some of the lovely plants you can expect to see if you come to the meeting.

Over to Richard and Kath:

"A provisional programme of the BSBI Welsh Annual Meeting has now been drawn-up and it includes site visits to a selection of the county’s notable and diverse habitats.

Moonwort at Pembrey Burrows
Image: R. Pryce
"After meeting at the hotel by 1:30pm, the field excursion on Tuesday afternoon will include several brownfield sites in the vicinity of Burry Port Harbour where Prostrate Toadflax Linaria supina occurs. We will monitor the only extant site in the county of Small-flowered Catchfly Silene gallica and will see some annual clover species and Sand Catchfly Silene conica in nearby disturbed dunes. 

"Wednesday’s field visit will be to Capel Dyddgen SSSI which includes grassland and woodland on Carboniferous Limestone, home to  Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula and, unusually in woodland, a small population of Moonwort Botrychium lunaria. Land adjacent to the SSSI includes rhos pasture with, for instance, Marsh Valerian Valeriana dioica and Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum. If the weather is sunny, we may also be lucky enough to see Marsh Fritillary butterflies.

Green-winged orchid
at Pembrey Burrows
Image: R. Pryce
"Thursday’s trip is bound for Pembrey Burrows LNR, a very rich duneland and saltmarsh site where Common Meadow-rue Thalictrum flavum  and Greater Spearwort Ranunculus lingua  grow, but the highlight should be the large populations of Moonwort Botrychium lunaria  and Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio. We should also see Common Broomrape Orobanche minorHound’s-tongue Cynoglossum officinale and many others.

"On the Tuesday evening, Richard Pryce will present his view of 40 years’ botanical recording in Carmarthenshire, whilst on Wednesday evening, BSBI's Scientific Officer for England, Dr Pete Stroh, will give us a short update on progress with BSBI Atlas 2020. This will be followed by the keynote talk by Dr. Nigel Stringer that will feature a brief introduction to the biology of fungal plant parasites and the recording of rusts in Carmarthenshire including a comparison with other counties in Wales and the rest of the UK. Nigel will also discuss the impact of rusts on their hosts and plant communities.

"There will also be exhibits, an ID help table and a sale of second-hand books.

"The BSBI Welsh Meeting is a great way to learn more about plants and plant recording whilst having the opportunity to informally meet and absorb knowledge from some of the country’s principal botanical experts. Beginners are welcome and you can book a place on the Wales AGM page of the BSBI website".

Thursday, 11 April 2019

BSBI's Irish Spring Conference 2019: Part One

Emer & Edwina on the registration desk,
welcoming the delegates
Image: C. Heardman
The BSBI Irish Spring Conference is a big event in the Irish botanist's calendar - a chance to come together, network with old friends and enjoy talks and workshops which help kick-start the botanical year. Irish botanists always take to Twitter to share their comments on, and photos of, the conference.

But what about if you're a newcomer to botany and/ or to BSBI, so you don't know anyone and aren't really sure what to expect? Do you still have a great day or do you feel like a fish out of water? Well, there was only one way to find out...

BSBI's Irish Officer Dr Maria Long, who organised the event, invited newcomer Erin Griffin to attend the conference and write up her account of the day. And we promised that apart from correcting typos and dropping in links, we'd publish what she sent us - even if there were any criticisms! 

Over to Erin:
   
Talks about to start...
Image: O. Duggan
"Last week I had the privilege of attending my very first BSBI conference. The event was held at the National BotanicGardens, Glasnevin, in Dublin on Saturday, the 30th of March. In addition to excellent talks, workshops and a botany-themed quiz, I met some really interesting people and still had time to explore the gardens.

"Kicking off the event, Tadhg O’Mahony from the Environmental Protection Agency discussed the State of the Environment Report (2016) and the key challenges faced. Referring to himself as an ‘environmental salesmen’, Tadhg has spent the past 22 years convincing government departments to integrate environmental consideration into plans, programmes and strategies. He states the environment has to make it in at the ‘blank page stage: before the decision has been made, not after’. The key challenges Ireland faces in its next report are climate change, environmental health and wellbeing, legislation, water quality, sustainable economic activities, community engagement, nature and wildlife. 

Tadhg O'Mahony talks about
the state of Ireland's environment
Image: O. Duffy
"Tadhg stressed the need for identifying what we are losing in terms of biodiversity, especially under-recorded aquatic species, and recognising the need to engage and inform the public by making reports accessible to anyone. He even included his own personal experience on how he and his friends connected with nature on walks through The Gearagh. As a champion of the Irish environment, Tadhg's talk was nothing short of inspiring and his passion and dedication to his work is clear.

"Few of us ever look beyond the species, or even the aggregate of tricky species but Alexis FitzGerald (BSBI's County Recorder for Co. Monaghan) has done just that with his thesis on Festuca ovina agg. (sheep’s fescue). A taxonomically and evolutionarily interesting group, Festuca is rapidly evolving but is relatively under-researched in Ireland. Alexis set out to change this by investigating species, ploidy levels and distributions for Festuca ovina agg. using 40 samples and flow cytometry calibrated by chromosome counting. 

The beautiful gardens at Glasnevin
Image: O. Duffy
 
"Alexis found that tetraploidy appears to be the dominant form in Ireland, that the subspecies hirtula and ophioliticola both show considerable morphological variation and he had even discovered a rare new pentaploid population in Co. Mayo, the only European population outside of the Tatra Mountains in Central Europe. 

"He went on to explain that this morphological variation may be leading to over-recording of Festuca filiformis on hairless plant forms of subsp. hirtula. Festuca brevipila is present but is likely to be under-recorded. A quick look beyond the aggregate of the species and it’s clear more studies like this one are needed to improve the accuracy of our records.

Rory's plans for the year ahead...
Image: C. Heardman
"For the more adventurous botanists among us, Rory Hodd (joint County Recorder for Kerry) gave a talk on the continuing adventures of the Rough Crew also known as the ‘hardcore branch of the BSBI’. Rough Crew is in its fifth year running with more than 30 outings under its belt. Travelling to some of the most remote and unexplored areas of Ireland, the Rough Crew offers the opportunity to experience the true ‘wild’ of the country and make some chance discoveries of rare species. 

"Rory recounted some of his favourite trips, from winding trails of Slieve Tooey in SW Donegal to fighting midges and finding field mouse-ear Cerastium arvense (which is  rare in Ireland) on the Great Blasket island off the coast of Kerry. For 2019, Rory hopes to explore the Beara peninsula and the Wicklow mountains, among others. He welcomes any and all newcomers who feel up to the challenge.

Robert & Maria talking about Atlas 2020
Image: S. Brien
"As we approach the deadline for Atlas 2020, Robert Northridge gave us a quick update on what BSBI has accomplished in the past 20 years since the publication of the last Atlas. Each of the BSBI Atlases compiles all the records on plant distribution accumulated in the BSBI Database. The first Atlas was published in 1962, and in the past few years the BSBI in Ireland has reduced the amount of poorly hectads from 400 to 30. This year Robert is encouraging the recording of the remaining 30 squares, but he also challenged members to seek out rare plants in their areas and include the largely under-recorded aquatic plants in their surveys. 

Robert, Maria & Edwina
Image: C. Heardman
"This brought us to the final talk before lunch: Maria Long, BSBI's Irish Officer announcing the ‘Aquatic Plants Project 2019’, the aim of which is to combat the terrestrial bias in BSBI records. Funded by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the project will provide training for all - from complete beginners to experts - and a range of outings and trips focused on aquatic plants to test newly learned skills in the field. An excellent opportunity to upskill and gain a better understanding of our aquatic species".

So that takes us up to lunchtime and Erin seems to be enjoying the day so far. Her write-up is offering a real flavour of what went on at the Irish BSBI spring conference. Watch this space for the second half of Erin's report. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

First ever Flora for the Isle of Bute

This month sees the publication of the first ever county Flora for the Isle of Bute, or indeed any part of the Clyde Islands (vc100).

I asked author Angus Hannah, who has lived on Bute since 1978 and been County Recorder for the Clyde Islands since 2002, to tell us more about his Flora. 

Over to Angus: 

"The outcome of 20 years intensive research by the author on this scenically varied and botanically rich island, which until now has been largely overlooked. With 360 pages, full colour throughout with 90 photographs, the Flora contains: 
  • A thorough introduction to Bute and its plants, a history of recording on the island and a full account of how the survey data were gathered and analysed for presentation. 
  • A catalogue of 1,039 taxa with historic records, location details and discussion of distribution, status, habitats and ecology, with 500 maps showing both presence and abundance at monad scale and 530 text-boxes of locally derived ecological information on all the commoner species.
  • 11 Appendices with additional information on a range of topics including recent arrivals and possible extinctions. 
  • Gazetteer, bibliography and index (including English names).
Heath dog-violet Viola canina on Bute
Image: A. Hannah
"Although as comprehensive as possible, the Flora cannot claim to be definitive. Much work remains to be done, especially on hybrids and critical genera. To quote the author’s preface "it is not an end but a beginning... I hope my readers will share something of the pleasure I have had in exploring the flora of Bute over the last twenty years, and that some may be moved to continue that exploration."

"An essential companion for any botanist visiting Bute, its original methods of data analysis and presentation should make it also of interest to anyone looking for fresh approaches to studying the flora of their home area".

Rocks with juniper, north of Clachanard
Image: A. Hannah
The author acknowledges the assistance of a BSBI publications grant towards the cost of producing this Flora. You can view a sample page from the Isle of Bute Flora here.

The keen-eyed reader, even if they have never visited Bute, will recognise Angus's name. He is also editor of the Scottish Newsletter, one of BSBI's range of very popular periodicals covering botany across Britain and Ireland. 

Many of our periodicals are available free of charge to everyone, regardless of whether or not you are a BSBI member. You will be able to download the latest issue of the Scottish Newsletter from the BSBI's Scotland page in the next few weeks. 

And of course BSBI members will benefit from a pre-publication offer on the cost of the Isle of Bute Flora, which represents a saving of £5 on the RRP. There will be a print copy of the flyer for the pre-pub offer inside the April issue of BSBI News, you can view it below (click on the image to enlarge it) or you can download the electronic version hereThe offer will be open until the end of May. For non-members, the Isle of Bute Flora will be available at full price from Summerfield Books, so if you'd like to know more about the plants found on the Isle of Bute, order your copy today!