Saturday 31 December 2022

New Year Plant Hunt 2023: Day One

Red Dead-nettle by flashlight
Image: G. Scollard
We opted to start our twelfth New Year Plant Hunt on New Year's Eve 2022, as it was a Saturday so many people were off work and free to go out plant-hunting. Weather forecasts were not great and rain stopped play in many places but neither bad weather nor even pitch darkness can stop some botanists: once again the inimitable Ger Scollard was out with a flashlight and, within minutes of the Hunt starting, had recorded Red Dead-nettle in bloom near Tralee. What a legend! 

Once the sun was up, botanists were out hunting from Guernsey (31 species recorded, including Lesser Celandine, Pellitory-of-the-wall and and Common Dog-violet) up to Westray in the Orkney archipelago (4 species including Sea Mayweed) and from Earlham Cemetery in Norwich (21 species including Winter Aconite and Common Fumitory) over to Galway in the west of Ireland (8 species including Great Mullein and Yarrow). 

Our intrepid plant-hunters wandered along country lanes, around urban industrial estates and car parks, and into cemeteries, peering at road verges and pavement cracks, looking for wild and naturalised plants in bloom. 

Leicester botanists chuffed to find Annual
Mercury blooming on an industrial estate
Image: L. Marsh

By around 10pm, the Results page was showing that 836 unique records had been submitted and 169 species recorded, with Daisy, Dandelion and Groundsel (aka the Usual Suspects) topping the list of most frequently recorded plants. 

Botany groups out hunting in Somerset and the Bristol area, and ace botanists such as Paul Green, BSBI Ireland Officer, hunting in Co. Wexford, notched up some of the longest lists.

But as Moira from the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team reminded people, the Hunt isn't about competing for longest lists, it's about recording which plants are in bloom so we can compare across the years and against Met Office data, and learn more about how a changing climate is impacting our wildflowers. The Hunt is great fun but it's also an important Citizen Science initiative... with optional cake and hot chocolate ;-)

Jack and Florence consult Francis
Rose's Wildflower Key to check the
Ragwort that Florence found:
it was an Oxford Ragwort.
Image: L. Marsh
Lots of people who follow the same route over the years are reporting that they only found around half the usual number of species in bloom. I was out hunting today with my local botany group and although we had 16 pairs of eyes scrutinising the exact same area where we found 57 species in bloom in 2019, this time we only found 27 species, even though we had the benefit of the incredibly sharp eyes of Florence, one of our excellent young plant-hunters. It seems the cold snap a few weeks ago zapped a lot of species. 

But we had a brilliant afternoon - peering at plants in the company of lovely botanists really is one of life's great pleasures! 

If you haven't made plans yet to go out hunting, and you'd appreciate some company, try contacting your BSBI County Recorder to find out if there are any group hunts happening in your area, or check our New Year Plant Hunt Facebook group

You can also go out on your own, with family and friends or follow the example of Kerry botanist Jessica Hamilton and head out with a canine companion or two

Happy hunting - we can't wait to hear about what you find tomorrow!

Thursday 15 December 2022

December brings the final blogpost from outgoing BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from Lynne Farrell, she was just back from the Scottish Botanists' Conference and was preparing to hand the Presidential reins over to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. 

So now here is Lynne's last message for you in 2022:

"The British and Irish Botanical Conference in mid-November was a great success with people travelling from all round Britain and Ireland. Well done to everyone for getting there despite various transport companies trying their best to ‘de-rail’ us. There were many interesting talks and exhibits but the best thing all agreed, was being able to meet in person to discuss and share plants and views with each other. I gave a talk titled 'Plants, Conservation and Me' which we recorded for the BSBI YouTube channel - you can watch the video by clicking on the link.

"You can see all the videos, photographs and exhibits from the Conference on this page

"The next event takes place at the end of this year and beginning of next. The 12th New Year Plant Hunt will run from Saturday 31st December 2022 to Tuesday 3rd January 2023. This time around, we should be able to potter about in groups, so I hope you can arrange to meet up with a few botanical friends and have a good day out recording. Last year 1,895 people took part and recorded 669 taxa in bloom. But will the recent cold spell knock some of them back this time?

"Last month, BSBI Chief Executive Julia Hanmer and I I wrote to the UK Govt to express the Society’s concerns over land use issues and their effects on nature conservation (you can read the BSBI Policy on Nature Conservation here) and management of habitats and plants. We mentioned BSBI’s role in recording plant and habitat changes over many years and how our data highlighted these. A reply was received on 13th December, which was good in that we know our letter was read. Here is the Government response; much of it concerns farming but there are links through to other proposals which could help in the longer term eg Nature Recovery Green paper.

"Writing the monthly blog has kept me on my toes and made me more aware of what is happening around me, and now I am handing over in 2023 to our new president Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. The image above left was captured by our Hon Gen Sec Steve Gater, and shows me and Micheline at the British and Irish Botanical Conference.

"But just before I hand over, here is a sample of what I have been doing in the outdoors over the past month, not necessarily botanical:

  • searching for Brown Hairstreak butterfly eggs - we found 99 in two hours between 12 of us, which is actually a good observational rate; 
  • watching starling murmurations at Leighton Moss;
  • finding collared puffballs;
  • catching the Windermere ferry (above right) across the lake to see an art exhibition, and
  • standing on Arnside pier waiting for the sun to go down (on left).
"There may well be snow in December and it is definitely frosty this morning, so keep warm and enjoy the fresh air."

Huge thanks to Lynne for this final blogpost and for all her monthly blogposts over the past three years of her Presidency. During the darkest days of lockdown, Lynne's monthly posts really helped us all stay connected while we weren't able to meet up in person. 

Thanks Lynne, for the blogposts and for serving as BSBI President for the past three years!

Thursday 10 November 2022

Reconnecting: November blog from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was checking churchyards for interesting fungi and was getting ready for some big changes. Here's Lynne's latest report: 

"Wet and windy weather recently and that has encouraged people to meet again indoors at several excellent events for botanists to gather and reconnect. In late October, a Recorders’ Meeting was held at FSC Preston Montford near Shrewsbury, at which botanists from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales came together to discuss topics, try and identify the more critical groups such as Cotoneaster (image on right), and generally catch up with each other - splendid. We also fitted in field trips and our group investigated four churchyards, one of which had the Darwin family grave in it, plus several interesting waxcap fungi.

Jim and his dog Rannoch
Image courtesy of S. Drysdale

At the beginning of November, I was at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, for the Scottish Botanists’ Conference, which was also well-attended. Workshops, talks, exhibits, herbarium tour and discussions took place. It was a special occasion too, to mark the retirement of Jim McIntosh (image on left), who has been our Scottish Officer for the past 18 years. A packed programme kept us all busy but there was time, just, to chat to people you had not seen for several years, in between the arranged events. I always run out of time to meet all the people I would like to have chatted to, but did manage to catch up with some ‘old’ acquaintances and meet some new members and local botanists. Most of the talks have been recorded so you will be able to view them in future on our YouTube channel

So now I enter my final stint as President and will be attending the British and Irish Botanical Conference at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 19th November, despite there being no trains from Oxenholme to London, so I will be coming by a devious route and driving most of the way. December will be my last blogpost before handing over to incoming President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

Thursday 13 October 2022

End of a season: October blog from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Comma on Bramble
Image: L. Farrell
Last month saw BSBI President Lynne Farrell in the Outer Hebrides, looking at some of our tiniest plants and spreading the botanical word to passers-by. This month, as the season turns, she is back in Cumbria - here is her latest report:  

"Now we are well into autumn with leaves falling and blowing around. Most of the flowering plants are fading, although producing fruit, and soon it will be time for another group or even kingdom to take their place. 

"Changes are taking place in the BSBI also, with Jim McIntosh, Scottish Officer, retiring and Matt Harding replacing him, and James Harding-Morris becoming our Countries Support Manager. We welcome the ‘new’ and also appreciate the ‘old’. Soon it will be time for me to stand down too and hand over the presidency to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

"Before that, I’ve been grovelling in churchyards, although not quite with one foot in the grave yet. These areas do have good fungi and are often old, mature grassland, which are not mowed frequently, and as a result can support a variety of wild plants and fungi. 

Apricot Club Fungus in 
Hemingford Grey Churchyard,
Image: L. Farrell

"I've invited Caring For God’s Acre, the churchyard conservation group, to exhibit at our British and Irish Botanical Conference (the event formerly known as the Annual Exhibition Meeting) at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 19th November, an opportunity to meet fellow botanists again. I'll be giving a talk at the Conference called 'Plants, Conservation and Me'. 

"Before that, on Saturday 5th November, the Scottish Botanists’ Conference will take place at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. 

"I very much hope to see some of you at these meetings, as I have missed sharing plants with other ‘plantoholics’ over the past three years. Micheline will also be at the British and Irish Botanical Conference so it will be a chance for people to meet both the incoming and outgoing Presidents. This will be the first time in the Society's 196-year history that both the incoming and outgoing Presidents have been women. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 196 years for this to happen again!"

Many thanks to Lynne for this report, and if you'd like to catch up with her at one of our autumn events then please use the links above to book your space. We hope to see you there!

Sunday 2 October 2022

BSBI membership: save money with our autumn special offer!

Tall herbs on Craig an Lochan
Image by BSBI member Sarah Watts
Last autumn, we launched our membership special offer by saying that 'in a rapidly changing world, our wild plants have never been more in need of the support, understanding and appreciation that BSBI is uniquely placed to provide'. Well frankly, that applies even more this year: we have never been more reliant on, and grateful for, the contributions of our fabulous volunteer members. 

So today we are inviting you to join our growing ranks, if you haven't already, and asking our members to help us spread the word about the benefits of BSBI membership - for you and for our wonderful wild flowers. 

So, at a time when we are all counting the pennies, why join BSBI?

First of all, if you join BSBI in October, your membership starts at once so you could enjoy up to 15 months of membership benefits for the price of 12 months. You wouldn't need to renew your membership until January 2024.

Yellow Monkswort
Image by BSBI member Simon Harrap

Secondly, we've expanded our range of membership benefits in the past year and there are even more in the pipeline. As well as the three issues each year of our membership newsletter BSBI News (check out the free sample issue and this article to give you an idea of the contents), membership brings you big discounts on BSBI Handbooks and other selected botany books, favoured status when applying for BSBI training and plant study grants, exclusive access to 100+ expert plant referees to help you with identification... Find out more here about all these long-standing benefits.    

This year, we also launched an environment-friendly paperless membership option; we revamped the password-protected members-only area of our website with a range of new resources, such as 100+ scientific papers free to download and a free pdf of one of our most sought-after out-of-print Handbooks; we offered members-only volunteering opportunities; and we launched two new awards for outstanding contributions to botany at local and national level. We will also be offering a whopping 50% discount to any member who wants to buy our third plant distribution atlas, due to be published in March 2023.

Narrow-leaved Helleborine
Image by BSBI member Patrick Marks

There is a third reason to consider joining us. Many of our 3,706 (as of today!) members carry out amazing work studying, recording, monitoring and helping to conserve wild plants across Britain and Ireland. But many others are simply happy to know that their subscription helps support our work to advance the understanding and appreciation of wild plants and to support their conservation across Britain and Ireland. Check out our nature conservation policy and our strategic plan to find out more, or leaf through our latest Annual Review to find out what the Society achieved last year thanks to our wonderful members.  

If you are already a BSBI member, we'd like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you for all that you do, and ask you to spread the word to friends and colleagues who you think might enjoy becoming a member - and don't forget that a gift membership of BSBI makes a great present for a loved one!

Our ranks are growing - an 11% increase compared to last October - so if you haven't yet joined us, why not head over here and become our next new member? We can't wait to welcome you and send you your membership welcome pack. Together we can keep working towards a world where wild plants thrive and are valued - and so are the thousands of BSBI botanists who support them.

Thursday 29 September 2022

BSBI News: September issue published

We've just sent out copies of the latest issue of BSBI News to 3,706 of our members, who will be able to enjoy 88 pages of botanical delights in our membership newsletter. 

Electronic versions are already available on the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website (email me if you've forgotten your password) and the growing number of members who have opted for paperless membership received their digital copies a couple of hours ago.

But what if you haven't yet joined BSBI and you're wondering what's inside the latest issue and whether you'd enjoy receiving three copies each year of BSBI News

Take a look at our free sampler to get an idea of the content and you can also enjoy one full free article: four beautifully-illustrated pages by Mike Crewe on 'Getting to know the common thistles'.

Garlic Penny-cress in East Sussex:
a BSBI News article asks,
is it native or introduced there?
Image: M. Berry

Other articles in this latest issue include Howard Beck on Teesdale Violet; Richard Milne looking at Yellow Bird's-nest on brownfield sites in Scotland; a report summarising the results of the first three years of Plant Alert (the joint project between BSBI and Univ Coventry to discover which garden plants have the potential to become invasive and problematic in future); and over 20 pages of articles on Adventives and Aliens. 

There are also the usual book reviews, roundups of botanical news from across Britain and Ireland and advance notices of forthcoming BSBI events, such as the Atlas 2020 launch plans, the new Awards and updates about BSBI Referees.

Tucked inside each print copy of BSBI News (or in the same digital pack if you've gone paperless) are four other pieces of reading material: the latest BSBI Annual Review (which you can also download from the BSBI website here); invitations with programmes and booking links to the forthcoming Scottish Botanists' Conference and British & Irish Botanical Conference; and an agenda for the AGM.

Sea Pea in Pembrokeshire; a report
in BSBI News suggests it may have been
lost from this site (the only one in Wales)
Image: S. Evans

So, lots for members to enjoy and for supporters who haven't joined us yet, some tempting reading material in the form of the sampler and the free article about thistles - but if that entices you to want to join BSBI right now - don't do it! 

Yes, you heard that right - do not under any circumstances join BSBI today. Instead, wait just two more days because our membership special offer opens on 1st October and then you'll be able to enjoy 15 months of membership for the price of 12 months. 

Head back here on Saturday to read all about how you can take advantage of the special offer and to find out more about the many benefits of BSBI membership. Until then... enjoy that sampler and the free article   

Friday 16 September 2022

Out on the islands: September report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was looking at restoration sites in Cambridgeshire, where she used to be based, and Cumbria where she is based now. 

But as well as being our President, Lynne is also BSBI County Recorder for Mid Ebudes, and last week she managed to visit her patch - here is her latest report:

"I’ve been out on my smaller islands recently, where the weather was superb- it makes a change, and makes the botanising enticing.

"Here are some of the plants I spotted:

"Irish Lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana (image on left) is one of our rarest and elusive species, but there is more chance of finding it in Ireland, of course! In Scotland it is scattered on some of the islands, with just a few locations on Ardnamurchan, on the mainland. It does occur in the same habitats each year but it would seem not in the exactly the same places, so you have to search diligently, and that is what we did with some success. 

"It is a part of the oceanic boreal-montane element widespread in N. America but restricted to Britain and Ireland in Europe. Old lazy beds, and cattle-grazed flushes near the sea are favoured spots. 

"Pipewort Eriocaulon aquaticum is also a member of the same botanical element, again restricted to Britain and Ireland and widespread in N. America. On the island of Coll this means a fairly lumpy walk into the ‘interior’ but eventually you reach one of the hidden lochans (image above right and at foot of page) and find it is flowering in late August and into September.

"There are other species which flower in the autumn and although they may be insignificant in size, they are worth close inspection. Muddy trackways, often by farm gates, and island lay-bys with wet gravel and a smattering of peat, are just the places to get down on your hands and knees, to find Chaffweed Anagallis minima/ Centunculus minima (image on right) and Allseed Radiola linoides

"This often attracts the attention of locals, and several times they enquired as to whether we needed help, assuming the car had broken down. Some were sufficiently interested to get out of their cars and join us, and what’s even more encouraging, was that they were pleased to learn about some of our smallest plants".

That's some great outreach work by our President, spreading the word about BSBI and botanical recording to all the islands, big and small, across Britain and Ireland!

Friday 9 September 2022

British & Irish Botany: issue 4.3 published

Wood Vetch in the Cairngorms
Image: A. Amphlett
We've just published the third issue of the fourth volume of British & Irish Botany, featuring eight papers by authors across Britain and Ireland. 

We have two papers from Scotland.

Firstly, Andy Amphlett, BSBI County Recorder for Easterness, reviews the vascular plant flora of the Cairngorms Connect project area, Scotland, and consider some possible implications of forest expansion to the natural tree line.

Secondly, Sarah Watts, Ian Strachan & Richard Marriott report on remarkable botanical records from Corrour in Westerness, including the creeping form of Lesser Water-plantain (which they elevate to species status as Baldellia repens) and Coral-necklace Illecebrum verticillatum, both new to Scotland.

Baldellia repens at Corrour
Image: S. Watts
From Ireland, we have a detailed review by Tony Murray and Mike Wyse Jackson's of the history, status and conservation management of Cottonweed Achillea maritima at Lady’s Island Lake, Co. Wexford, while Eric Greenwood and Hugh McAllister explore the systematics and cytogenetics of Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis around northern Irish Sea coasts. 

Wales is represented too, with Tim Rich's account of the endemic Brecon Hawkweed Hieracium breconenseconfined to a single location in Craig-y-Ciliau National Nature Reserve in the Brecon Beacons. 

We also have three papers relevant to wild plants across the whole of Britain and Ireland. Firstly, Michael Braithwaite, our President from 2005 to 2008, reports on change in species distributions at tetrad scale – this is a supplement to the booklet Change in the British Flora 1987-2004, written by Michael with Bob Ellis and Chris Preston in 2006 and available from Summerfield Books here.

Brecon Hawkweed
Image: T. Rich

Next, Hugh McAllister and Andy Amphlett have teamed up to provide a definitive taxonomic treatment of the Tufted hair-grass Deschampsia cespitosa complex in Great Britain and Ireland.

Finally, we have a paper by Julian Shaw and colleagues at the Royal Horticultural Society describing a hybrid between the two species of Giant-rhubarbs Gunnera previously considered widespread in cultivation and proving invasive in some regions of Britain and Ireland. This previously overlooked hybrid is now considered to greatly outnumber one of the two parental species (G. manicata).

So, another fabulous issue here of our Open Access scientific journal, free for authors to publish in and for you to read - and we hope that there will be something of interest in this issue (as in all our back-issues) for every botanist across Britain and Ireland. 

Thursday 18 August 2022

Restoration: August report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

In July, BSBI President Lynne Farrell was in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, but in recent weeks she has been back in the UK - here is Lynne's report for August: 

"Now that we have been able to resume normal activities and ‘restore’ ourselves by being out in the wider countryside, I have been to some old haunts and some new ones. 

"The old one was where I used to live in Hemingford Grey, Cambs., and I visited the Manor House by the River Ouse. This has a wonderful garden created over many years by Lucy Boston (author of the Greenknowe series of children’s books) and now cared for by her daughter-in-law, Diana, who has become more interested in native plants and is integrating them into the garden as a whole. One of the areas of lawn is now a patch of cornfield species (image on right).

"A new area for me was at Haweswater, Cumbs., where the RSPB are restoring the large site by using grazing by traditional breeds such as Belted Galloways and Highland cattle. Planting of native species grown from seed is also being undertaken and they have a large plant nursery, which needs three hours of watering each day, especially in the hot weather. Students and volunteers are kept busy with this activity and recording. 

"The cattle seemed to be as interested in the visiting BSBI botanists (image on right) as we were in recording the plants, but they soon returned their attention to the job of grazing the land. The best find of the day was Adder's-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, a new site record.

"The site manager, Lee Schofield, has written a book about the whole project entitled Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Farm. The title itself indicates part of the story. 

"I find the mixture of familiar and new a good way to restore myself too".

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Going slow in the Julian Alps, Slovenia: July report by BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was out and about in Cumbria and in Wales.

Then in July she headed further afield, to Slovenia. 

Here is her report:

"This month I escaped to further afield despite British transport disruptions and joined a trip to the Julian Alps, Slovenia, based in Bohinj near where the International Wild Flower Festival is held in late Spring.  It is an area with magnificent scenery and, of course, fantastic plants. 

"I realised that Slovenia has no coastline so the lakes are very popular in summer for recreational water sports and in winter the mountains are ski-resorts (not to mention cyclists for those of you who are Tour de France supporters).

"As the temperature was 30C on most days, dipping into Lake Bohinj helped cool off later in the day. Thunder and lightning occurred late in the evening which lit up the mountains spectacularly.

"Many species of Lily, Saxifrages, Broomrape, Cinquefoil, Bellflower and Thistles are particularly diverse and difficult to determine, but we did manage some including a few species I had hoped to see such as Phyteuma (Physoplexis) comosum, (Devil’s Claw, image on left) and Potentilla nitida (Pink Cinquefoil, image top right), both favourites of alpine plant growers. 

"There are a few hazards including Cirsium spinosissimum (The Spiniest Thistle, image below).

"One of the most interesting aspects to me is seeing some of our rare mountain plants growing in abundance with many other species accompanied by species that do not occur in Britain and Ireland, providing a veritable botanical feast."

Many thanks to Lynne for this report and for the gorgeous photos - although That Spiniest Thistle certainly deserves its name!

Friday 29 July 2022

Fen orchid refound in Carmarthenshire by 11-year old BSBI botanist

Image courtesy of
John Crellin/ Floral Images
Congratulations to botanist Tristan Moss (age 11) who spotted Fen Orchid during a visit to the MoD Establishment at Pendine, Carmarthenshire, while attending the Glynhir Recording Week with fellow BSBI botanists. 

According to Richard Pryce, BSBI County Recorder for Carmarthenshire and the organiser of the recording week, "the orchid had not been seen in Carmarthenshire for 19 years and was thought to have gone locally extinct". 

BSBI member Ruth Harding, whose day job is as the officer at Natural Resources Wales with responsibility for the site, said that she was "thrilled" at Tristan's find because "site management has been geared to restoring habitat suitable for the orchid to recolonise".

You can read more about the story of Tristan's find in this press release and in reports across the media in the past 24 hours: the story was picked up by ITV News, was covered in The Times and many regional newspapers and websites, it appears on the MoD Government website and was even mentioned by Martha Kearney on this morning's Today programme on Radio 4 (1 hour 46 minutes in). 

Tristan must have very sharp eyes because, as the image below shows, the Fen Orchid can be quite difficult to spot!

Thanks are due to Ruth and her team, to Richard and Kath for organising the recording week (a much-loved fixture in the BSBI events calendar) and for alerting all of us to this story, and to the staff at Pendine Establishment for access permission but the last word goes to Tristan who said: "I've been coming to BSBI meetings in Wales since I was a baby, re-finding the fen orchid made this the best year yet". 

Image courtesy of
John Crellin/ Floral Images

Tuesday 19 July 2022

BSBI Summer Meeting 2022: Day Three

Yesterday we heard from Julia Hanmer, BSBI's Chief Executive, about the day she spent at her first ever BSBI Annual Summer Meeting (ASM)

Today's report is from Than, another plant-lover attending the ASM for the first time.

Over to Than:    

"This was my first meeting. As a beginner to botany, and having done most of my botanising on the streets of London, the only pavements I knew were those of concrete. The limestone pavements we visited on the Southerscales Nature Reserve were therefore both excitingly new and strangely familiar all at once. 

"Here were entirely new plant communities - many of which I had never seen before - jostling together through the cracks and crevices, not unlike their unruly urban cousins who I was better acquainted with. 

"On the grazed pastures  surrounding the path up to the main expanse of pavement, we were greeted by a company of orchids. These comprised Coeloglossum viride (Frog orchid), which I thought were less glamorous, but no less dignified than their colourful neighbours, Gymnadenia conopsea (Chalk fragrant-orchid, image on left), and further along, some Neottia ovata (Twayblade orchid).

"The limestone pavements were nothing short of spectacular, building up from patches to a contiguous expanse further up. This was what I could only describe in some parts as a veritable fernucopia (image below right). 

"In one tiny section of paving we identified five different ferns, including both rarer limestone specialists and generalists - Gymnocarpium robertianum (Limestone fern), Dryopteris submontana (Rigid buckler-fern), Dryopteris filix-mas (Male fern), Dryopteris affinis (Scaly male fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue fern). 

"There were more to follow too, including Athyrium filix-femina (Lady fern), Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair spleenwort) and Asplenium viride (Green spleenwort).

"The number of wildflowers on display were also wonderfully plentiful. 

"Whilst I had seen the Thalictrum flavum (Common Meadow-rue) before, this was the first time I saw its dryland cousin, the Thalictrum minus (Lesser Meadow-rue, image on left), and that too, whilst in flower. 

"Another member of the Ranunculaceae, which proved a personal highlight was Actaea spicata (Baneberry, image below right). We were lucky enough to see them at different stages of life, with some in flower and others with swelling unripe fruit that were a glossy green for now, but as I was told, would eventually turn a deep and deadly red.

"Amongst many of the learnings, one of the botanists in our party was also kind enough to give me a two minute masterclass on the distinction between the native hawkbits, with the one we had encountered being the hairiest of them all, Leontodon hispidus (Rough hawkbit).

"The afternoon took us to Salt Lake Quarry Nature Reserve. A special find here was the Eleocharis mamillata (Northern spike-rush), a humble plant in many ways, but more notable in my view for its rarity than appearance. 

"A small plant I was particularly captivated by was perhaps more common, though one I had not seen before - the demure and dainty white flower of Linum catharticum (Fairy flax) - a plant as magical as its common name suggests.

"All in all this was another fantastic day of learning in a fantastic landscape. With so much expertise around, and exceedingly helpful botanists at hand (image below) who were willing to share their wisdom so readily, I feel my botanical knowledge has expanded exponentially in the few short days I have been here.

"Thank you BSBI!"

You're very welcome Than - we're delighted that you enjoyed your first ever Summer Meeting and were able to sharpen your plant ID skills! Many thanks for this write-up and for all the fabulous photos you took, to illustrate this  report. 

Only one day left of the Meeting so watch this space for the final report.

Monday 18 July 2022

BSBI Summer Meeting 2022: Day Two

Marsh Helleborine
Weybeck Pasture 16/7/2022
Image: J. Hanmer
Yesterday's report from the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) came from botanist Laura, who is not (yet) a BSBI member and was attending her first ever ASM. Today we hear from another plant-lover attending her first ever ASM but this person is already right at the heart of the BSBI family - it's our CEO Julia Hanmer. 

Over to Julia:  

"It’s a real treat to be here amongst so many botanists at the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting in Malham Tarn. This is my first BSBI field meeting after joining in April 2021 during Covid and I’m so pleased to finally meet lots of members face to face, rather than just on Zoom.

"It’s also wonderful, as a beginner botanist, to be surrounded by many people who know their plants really well and can show me the features to look for to identify them. Also to share tips about memorising plants, including the way they taste and smell (such as that the leaves of Rumex acetosa (Common Sorrel) taste of apple peel).

Jeremy recording the plants
 that Julia's group spotted
Image: J. Hanmer

"Today we divided into small groups to visit and survey various different nature reserves or monads, all without putting too much pressure on these delicate habitats. Our group of seven went to Weybeck Pasture, a meadow recently taken back into management from a tenant farmer by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT). This was a rectangular field on the banks of the River Skirfare, near where it joins the River Wharfe.

"When we found our way to the field entrance, we were initially disappointed and wondering why this was down on the list of interesting local sites. However, this was a good chance for me to practice my common species identification skills, including grasses, thistles and clovers. We looked at Cirsium arvense (Creeping Thistle) with smooth stems and pale lilac flowers beside Cirsium vulgare’s deep purple flowers with prickly stems and an overall much angrier look. Discussing thistle identification led to tales of high-speed botanising and how to spot C. heterophyllum (Melancholy Thistle) from trains by the white colour of the hairs on the underside of the leaves.

"I’ve been doing the Identiplant course online since February to improve my plant identification skills and it was great to meet up with two others here who are doing the course and find many of the species I haven’t been able to track down yet in London such as Trifolium medium (Zigzag Clover).

Marsh Cinquefoil,
Tarn Moss, 16/7/2022
Image: J. Hanmer
"Once we walked down the slope towards the stream, we were suddenly in botanical heaven. We found a small slope covered in Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant-orchids), which smelt amazing and Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine, image top right). This was alongside a wonderful wet flush with Pinguicula vulgaris (Common Butterwort), Polygala vulgaris (Common Milkwort), Black bog rush, Linum catharticum (Fairy Flax), Sesleria caerulea (Blue Moor-grass) and Pilosella officinarum (Mouse-ear-hawkweed.) Nearby, on a higher slope, we found Helianthemum nummularium (Common Rock-rose) and Primula farinosa (Bird’s-eye Primrose).

"After all that excitement and a paddle in the steam, we sheltered from the sun beside a limestone wall for lunch, then returned to the stream to attempt to re-find a rare species we had a grid reference for beside the small stream. The grid reference proved accurate and we found Blysmus compressus (Flat-sedge), a “Vulnerable” Red Data Book sedge. Now I understand the buzz of finding a rare plant! We counted 34 plants in flower in a small area 3.5m long in a small open area alongside the stream.

Common Wintergreen,
Tarn Moss, 16/7/2022
Image: J. Hanmer
"While Jeremy (image above left), Caroline and James went off to finish recording the monad (a 1km x 1km square), our car of four then headed back to FSC Malham Tarn for a cup of tea before walking to Tarn Moss NNR  and the amazing boardwalk over this very special bog beside tarn. We’d visited briefly on a walk yesterday afternoon but today we had time to linger and key out some of the exciting bog plants including comparing Galium uliginosum (Fen Bedstraw) with Galium palustre (Marsh-bedstraw), spotting the seed heads of Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) and finding Triglochin palustris (Marsh Arrowgrass), Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil, image above right), Vaccinium oxycoccus (Cranberry), Pyrola minor (Common Wintergreen) and the wonderful Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaved Sundew, image on left).

"What a fantastic day! Huge thanks to everyone here for all your help in guiding me to find and identify these amazing plants".

Huge thanks also to our CEO Julia for this report, it's great that she had a chance to escape from her desk for a day and enjoy seeing some fabulous plants! Watch this space for the next report, from Day Three of the Summer Meeting.   

Sunday 17 July 2022

BSBI Summer Meeting 2022: Day One

On Thursday, we heard from Jonathan Shanklin, organiser of the 2022 BSBI Annual Summer Meeting; he was wending his way northwards to FSC Malham Tarn, brushing up on his upland plant ID skills en route and getting ready to welcome botanists to the Society's main summer recording event. 

Each day, we will be bringing you a report from one of the attendees at the Meeting; here is Laura's report from Friday, Day One:   

"On the first day of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland's Annual Summer Meeting, there was no time for a leisurely settling-in to our commodious rooms of FSC Malham Tarn Field Centre, with all concerned instead wanting to get right to it with an excursion. The group of over twenty botanists, converging in the western Yorkshire Dales, had travelled from many corners of Great Britain (South Wales, Surrey, Edinburgh, Norfolk, Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, London, Teeside to name a few), some making longer trips of their drive over here to botanise at other locations en route. Conversation was easy, despite this being - for one member at least - the largest group of new people they had met in quite a long time!

"The botanists split into two for the first excursion, with the groups named “easy” and “rough”, although a warning that the easy group may well walk further than the rough group and would face some tricky botany. The ‘easy, but maybe not-too easy’ group visited Tarn Moss to the west of the Malham Tarn, while the ‘roughish perhaps’ group walked around the east of the Tarn under Great Close Hill, through the Ha Mire and in the Great Close Mire. The rest of this tale will be about the latter group since all this blogger subsequently learnt of the former group was that they discovered Salix pentandra (Bay Willow).

"It has been said in this blog before, and it will be said again, that a problem with Botanical Society meetings can sometimes be the initial chivvying of participants out of the car park. This time I was able to actually get a magnitude to this problem: 35 minutes, or 16.6% of total excursion time was spent recording plants around the fringe and in the front lawn of Malham Tarn house. It was our first monad [a 1km x 1lm square] though, so entirely necessary, and some plants of interest were discovered: Erinus alpinus (Fairy Foxglove) and Cymbalaria pallida (Italian Toadflax) for example, daintily gracing a shady limestone dry-wall, were new species to a number of folks in the group. By this number whether Erinus alpinus looked remotely foxglove-y or indeed Scrophuariaceae-y was questioned.

"And so on we progressed, through three successive monads of recording and new habitats and microhabitats yielding fresh collections of interesting specimens. All to the beautiful front drop of Malham Tarn - a large lake by English standards and spectacularly framed by rolling green fells and patches of deciduous woodland - and the dramatic backdrop of Great Close - a limestone cliff complete with Peregrine Falcon. Of botanical note on the lower slopes of Great Close Hill was found Galium sterneri (Limestone Bedstraw) clambering over a little hummock created on a limestone rock, happily growing alongside Galium saxatile (Heath Bedstraw) allowing a minute comparison for those with hand-lens. Mention must also be given to Primula farinosa (Bird’s Eye Primrose, image on left) that was discovered still flowering in the Ha Mire and frequently after that. This species was a new one for some of us and the compact, trim rosettes and creamy white underside of the leaves were admired - this mire would be well worth a visit at the prime of the primrose flowering.

"Finally, I must wrap this tale short since its relation is being squeezed into a spare moment before more excursions, with the exciting plant hunt in the latter part of the excursion. This Annual Meeting, in addition to general monad and tetrad recording, enjoying the sights and botanical company, we’re also trying to help the LORE project - looking for LOst Rarities in England - that is searching for species that have not been found at a site in the 21st Century. For Great Close this meant looking for Bartsia alpina (Alpine Bartsia) and Polygala amarella (Dwarf Milkwort). Great Close Mire was the subject of the search and everyone engaged. Three individuals of a more common Polygala were discovered, raising false hope, but sadly revealed no basal rosette of leaves which is characteristic of P. amarella.

"However, the search for B. alpina was successful! A single stem of this short but stout hemiparasite was discovered, it has already flowered so its purpley-blue flowers could not be admired but the stem nonetheless was highly distinctive and a joy for, in particular, the hemiparasite lovers in the group. A number of us carefully explored the hummocks all around but not a single further stem of this rare plant was discovered. We hope that the seeds currently maturing in the inflated red calices will help to perpetuate this plant into the future".

Many thanks to Laura for this account and to Wendy for images 1,2 and 4 and Julia for image 3. Day Two report to follow - watch this space!