Friday 18 June 2021

Opening up: June report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Coralroot in Cumbria
Image: I. Denholm
Last month BSBI President Lynne Farrell she was looking at various kinds of Broomrapes and reading the new BSBI Handbook all about them. So what has she been up to since then?

Lynne tells us:

"Since the middle of May we have been allowed to meet up with a few of our friends, preferably in the open air. Several local groups have held meetings, including the Flora of Cumbria group, which met on Scout Scar in early June to enjoy the specialities of the site. They were just showing as the warmer weather had not quite arrived then. 

"People have also been able to travel further and Ian Denholm, one of our trustees, Editor of British & Irish Botany, one of BSBI's orchid referees and also a past President of BSBI, came up for a few days, when we explored a few of the many interesting local spots. Ian was keen to see some orchids near their geographical limits in Britain, so we obtained permission to visit a private local reserve to see Corallorhiza trifida (Coralroot) where it was first found in 2016. 

Ian examining the coralroot
Image: L. Farrell

"The more usual place to see this species is at Sandscale Haws, a wonderful coastal dune system, but reports from there were not encouraging so we turned inland. Coralroot is a saprophytic herb found in shady, damp Alder and Willow carr on raised mires and lake margins, but it can also be found in dune slacks with Salix repens (Creeping willow). It is easily overlooked and new sites are still being discovered, so keep your eyes open.

"On the only wet and misty day recently, I joined the Butterfly Conservation group at Ormsgill Slag Banks, another coastal site near Barrow. As the name suggests, this is a site of man-made origin, reflecting the previous history of the area, which was a main source of materials for various industries. Now it is being re-colonised by natural vegetation but also has planted species including many Sorbus (Whitebeam) trees and Hippophae rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn), which are more vigorous than we would probably wish to see. 

Eyed Hawkmoth
Image: L. Farrell

"This area is now important as a rescue site for the Cupido minimus (Small Blue butterfly). Due to the cold and misty conditions we did not see a single flying butterfly but found them roosting in Galium album (Hedge Bedstraw), making them much easier to photograph. We were surprised to find a Smerinthus ocellata (Eyed Hawkmoth) in a comatose state resting in the clover. This would be near its northern limit. Nearby we found the gall Taphrina pruni (Pocket Plum) on Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn). 

"Whilst searching for plants it is also good to see species of interest from other groups. As I once said to someone on Mull where I'm BSBI's County Recorder, ‘I’m more than just a botanist’.

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