Sunday 31 December 2023

New Year Plant Hunt 2024: Day Two

The second day of the New Year Plant Hunt dawned and it was still miserable weather for many of us. But there were group hunts planned in many locations; a glance at the Results board this morning showed that only c300 species had been recorded on Day One, so there was obviously more to find; and botanists are a hardy bunch so.... a-hunting we went!

Botanising with friends and family, or in organised groups, is always a real theme of the Hunt and today was no exception. Michael Jones' 8-month old daughter was wrapped up warmly and (judging by the image on right taken by Michael) seems to have really enjoyed using our spotter sheet of Top 20 plants to check what to look for during the Hunt! The spotter sheets were new this year and first-time plant hunters of all ages have found them very useful.

On the Results page, where you'll find the list of most frequently recorded plants (the ones we used when compiling the spotter sheets), a new feature for this year is that our IT wizard Tom Humphrey has put little arrows in to show whether a species is being recorded in bloom more or less frequently than last year. So it looks as though Hazel, Winter Heliotrope and White Dead-nettle are going 'up the charts' but Red Dead-nettle, Shepherd's-purse and Hogweed are going down. Is that what you're finding in your area? Daisy retains it's supreme position as number one on the list. 

So who else was out hunting with friends and family? In Co. Cork, the Glengarriff team notched up 35 species in bloom, more than the Sligo team yesterday - but Sligo botanists had a rainbow for compensation! The Cornish botanists had a great day out in Mevagissey today and found 76 species in bloom. Their list is here, at the top of the list of longest lists (for now!) Fewer species to be found up in in Newcastle, where James Common was out again - it's only Day Two but he was on his third Hunt, this time with partner Matt and they found musk mallow blooming by a bus stop (image on left). Urban and suburban habitats like this often yield the most interesting plant finds.   

Community is an important part of botanising - to enjoy great company and also for sharing ID tips. In Hertfordshire, the Grow Community - Sopwell team (image on right) enjoyed botanising together on their group hunt. There are still quite a few group hunts scheduled for the next two days so do check them out if you'd like some company on your hunt.  

But many of us also enjoy a solo Hunt - a bit of quiet time to recharge our batteries. In Lancashire, Rose Edmondson did her first ever New Year Plant Hunt, inspired by Leif Bersweden's book and armed with the Top 20 spotter sheet

Neil Forbes was out in Arnside and found Spring Sandwort (image below left). With a handlens, he could see anthers sticking out so that counted as 'flowering' and was therefore eligible for the Hunt. Neil also noticed the impact of both microclimate and proximity to the coast on the abundance and status (native or non-native) of the species blooming in the various locations he visited. 

Southern locations tend to have more species in bloom - for example, Kate Gold found 31 species in bloom in East Sussex yesterday, following the same route she's been going since 2016 - whereas further north today, Margaret Cahill in Offaly and Joanie McNaughton in Edinburgh both found slimmer pickings. 

But understanding more about which wild and naturalised plants manage to bloom where, and how this correlates with autumn and winter weather patterns, is what makes the New Year Plant Hunt so interesting. So well done to those northern plant hunters who braved the cold and went out to see what they could find in bloom. 

By 10pm, when we had just about reached the halfway point of this year's Hunt, the Results board showed that plant hunters had uploaded details of more than 700 surveys and the total number of species recorded in bloom had risen to 439. Great work everyone!

What will tomorrow bring? I'm leading a hunt around a Leicester industrial estate in the afternoon and look forward to seeing how our count compares with previous years at the same location. My colleague James Harding-Morris, the mastermind behind those great spotter sheets, will be here in the evening to summarise Day Three findings for you. 

Happy hunting and fingers crossed for decent weather!

Saturday 30 December 2023

New Year Plant Hunt 2024: Day One

Our thirteenth New Year Plant Hunt kicked off today and at just a few minutes past midnight, the first record pinged in: the inimitable Ger Scollard recorded Ivy-leaved Toadflax in southwest Ireland by flashlight and that became the first record to light up our interactive results map

Last year Ger did the same thing but with Red Dead-nettle. There's no stopping this man! 

Most other people waited until the sun was up and then the records started to flood in, despite wet and windy weather in many places. 

James Common led fellow Tyneside botanists on two Hunts, one in "soggy" Tynemouth (image above right) and one in Heaton where, he tells us, it rained again. But James was undaunted and at least he didn't have to endure the heavy snow which prevented Sarah Watts from going out hunting! 

Charlotte Rankin also braved unpleasant weather in Carlisle to notch up 20 species including Narrow-leaved Ragwort (image on left) which, as Plant Atlas 2020 tells us, is a naturalised South African species which is spreading rapidly, especially in England and in the Dublin area. 

This is the first New Year Plant Hunt since the publication of Plant Atlas 2020 so plant hunters have been able to access up-to-date information about the plants they are seeing and any trends driving changes in distribution, e.g. climate change, habitat loss etc. 

Plant Atlas 2020 is such a great resource and so are the summary reports for Britain and for Ireland

The weather didn't look too bad for Tim Rich who, with Sarah Whild, carried out the very first New Year Plant Hunt over a decade ago. 

Little did they know that their 'hmm I wonder what we'll find in bloom around here at New Year' would turn into a citizen science activity that attracts thousands of people across Britain and Ireland! 

This year Tim, one of Britain's top botanists, was out hunting in Cardiff with Julian Woodman, one of the
East Glamorgan County Recorders. They notched up 54 species between them, including Bulbous Buttercup (image on right) and you can see their list here

As the day went on, records pinged in from locations across Britain and Ireland. In Chandler's Ford in Hampshire, Tristan Norton, Martin Rand & co found Jersey Cudweed (image on left showing it in characteristic habitat between paving stones). Jersey Cudweed is another species that Plant Atlas 2020 suggests is spreading northwards, perhaps due to climate change.
On the Kintyre peninsula there were five species in bloom, including Herb-Robert which, surprisingly, proved elusive further south, while in Castlegregory in County Kerry, Olly Lynch and Hannah Mulcahy found 24 species in bloom, including a rather nice Valerianella corn-salad (image below right). 

The habitats that our intrepid plant hunters visited in their search for wildflowers ranged from a wall in Northamptonshire, where Brian Laney, Alyson Freeman and their team found Annual Mercury, to a drainpipe in Uckfield, Sussex, where Plant Hunt regular Wendy Tagg spotted Yellow Corydalis in bloom, to school grounds in Worcestershire, where the fabulous BHA Potting Sheds team recorded 21 species in bloom including the lovely but diminutive whitlow-grass (image below left). 

Those tiny white members of the Cabbage family can be tricky to ID but fortunately there is an excellent cribsheet by the amazing Moira (aka Nature Lark) to help you - it's free to download here

Of course some of the longest lists came from southern and coastal areas: 67 species in Alderney, 64 species spotted by Jo and her team in Cromer. Jo had no sooner got back from her Cromer Hunt than she was on the Support Desk and on social media (Twitter and Bluesky) helping with plant ID - there's dedication for you! 

But as ecologist Joni Cook, volunteering on the Support Desk for the first time this year, quite rightly pointed out, the New Year Plant Hunt isn't just about longest lists: we are also keen to hear if you hunted but found absolutely nothing. 

It all helps us build up a clearer picture of how wild and naturalised plants across Britain and Ireland are responding to a changing climate. 

So, on to Day Two of the Hunt - we can't wait to hear how you get on and the Support Team is ready to help if you run into any problems! Goodnight, we'll leave you with this lovely little whitlow-grass.

Thursday 28 December 2023

British & Irish Botany: issue 5.3 published

Ian browsing a copy of 'Stace'
Image: L. Marsh
It's been six months since we published the last issue of British & Irish Botany, the Botanical Society's online, Open Access scientific journal. We are about to press publish on another issue and this one marks a milestone in the journal's history: this will be the final issue under the editorship of Ian Denholm.

Ian took over the editorship of British & Irish Botany's predecessor, New Journal of Botany, in 2015, just weeks after his term as BSBI President ended; he oversaw the setting up of British & Irish Botany and has been at the helm for the last five years. So this really is the end of an era! 

Don't worry about the future of the journal - Ian has overseen the succession plans and we'll be announcing the new Editor-in-Chief very soon - but for now, I'd like to hand over to Ian to tell you about what's in this latest issue of British & Irish Botany:

"Publication of Issue 5(3) of British & Irish Botany (B&IB) completes the fifth year of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland's online scientific journal. Over this period there have been 18 issues containing 136 papers covering the taxonomy, history, origins, ecology and conservation of the British and Irish flora. The appearance of each issue has traditionally been accompanied by a blogpost from Louise Marsh summarising the contents and highlighting findings of particular significance. On this occasion, in light of my retirement as editor-in-chief, she has graciously stepped aside and delegated this task to me!

Hieracium elizabethae-reginae
Image: T. Rich
"We commence with a paper from Tim Rich, one of B&IB’s most prolific contributors, who with co-author James Warren adds a new endemic species of hawkweed (Hieracium) to the British flora. The significance of this development is heightened by the taxon being named in honour of our late Queen Elizabeth II. Careful reading of the paper will disclose the connection! Anyone who was an active botanist in the ‘pre-Stace’ era will no doubt retain great affection for the preceding Flora of the British Isles by Clapham, Tutin and Warburg (CTW). A paper by David Wilkinson and Laura Jean Cameron centres on a lunch held to launch the first edition of CTW in 1952. They speculate on the identity of the person caricatured on the cover of the lunch menu, and provide a fascinating image of the menu itself signed by most of the botanical illuminati of the day.

"Ridha El Mokni and Duilio Iamonico explore aspects of nomenclature within the genus Gypsophila which, although not native to Britain and Ireland, contains several species that have been reported as garden escapes or casuals from other sources, and may become more frequent under changing climatic conditions. Frank Horsman investigates in detail the contributions of the 17th century botanist Edward Morgan, to knowledge of the Welsh flora in particular. Morgan emerges from this account as something of an unsung hero whose work and influence on contemporaries deserves much more recognition and respect than it is presently accorded.

Artemisia campestris subsp. maritima
Image: J. Twibell

"The theme of Welsh plants extends through the remaining two papers in the issue. Field Wormwood (Artemisia campestris) is a rare, iconic and native component of the Breckland flora, but also grows as a distinct subspecies (maritima) on the Sefton coast in Lancashire and at Crymlin Burrows in South Wales. Andy Jones and Fred Rumsey review evidence from various sources that collectively tip the balance in favour of maritima plants being recent arrivals on our shores, in direct contrast to their Breckland counterparts. 

"Fred Rumsey (again!) and Chris Thorogood (authors of the BSBI Broomrapes Handbook) detail the history, distribution and ecology of Picris Broomrape, Orobanche picridis. This has proved a challenging taxon due to nomenclatural confusion and morphological similarity to Common Broomrape, Orobanche minor. Most botanists to date (including me) have sought it on chalk in east Kent and on the Isle of Wight. While confirming its continued presence at these locations, the authors also report the discovery of a huge newly-discovered (and presumably previously overlooked) colony on private land in South Wales.

Orobanche picridis
Images: C. Thorogood
& F. Rumsey

"Editing the journal for five years has been a fair commitment of time, but also rewarding in that I have learned a great deal from the contents of papers and have enjoyed stimulating and productive interactions with authors. I thank Louise Marsh for exceptional editorial assistance, Jonathan Shanklin for meticulous proof-reading, and all who have supported the journal by reviewing manuscripts and contributing papers. May British & Irish Botany continue to thrive under new management!"

Huge thanks to Ian for all he has done to establish British & Irish Botany - it has been a delight to assist him! 

I hope he will enjoy having more time for all his other botanical interests, including being BSBI's joint County Recorder for Hertfordshire, BSBI's joint referee for orchids, sitting on BSBI's Science & Data Committee.... he's not so much retiring as re-calibrating! 

So it just remains for me to point you to the latest issue of British & Irish Botany and say "watch this space" for news about Ian's handover to his successor.  

Sunday 1 October 2023

BSBI membership: save money with our autumn 2024 special offer

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'. In the 12 months since then, we've seen even more evidence of how our climate is changing, while Plant Atlas 2020 and the latest State of Nature report flagged how British and Irish wild flowers, and the many other species of wildlife who depend on them, are increasingly threatened. 

We have never been more reliant on, and grateful for, the contributions of BSBI's 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? And why now?

Green-winged orchid in East Sussex
Image: Susan Greig

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 2025.

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 BSBI News, our colourful magazine packed with information about British and Irish wild flowers (check out the sampler page and some of the free articles to give you an idea of the contents), membership brings you big discounts on botany books, such as Plant Atlas 2020 (50% off for members buying the print copy); BSBI Handbooks (pre-publication offers for members, usually around a third off) and other selected botany books advertised via the password-protected members' area on our website. 

Limestone bedstraw on The Burren
Image: Heather Kelly
Membership also gives you favoured status when applying for BSBI training and plant study grants - if you're thinking of doing a plant ID course, such as BSBI's online Identiplant course or one of the many courses offered by external providers, you can apply for a grant of up to £250 to help you. Members also have exclusive access to 100+ expert plant referees to help you with identification, and to 100+ scientific papers free to download from our members' area. Concerned about the environmental impact of your membership? By opting for paperless membership and choosing eBooks rather than printed Handbooks, you'll be minimising your carbon footprint. 

Wood-sorrel in Surrey
Image: Gillian Elsom
But there's a third reason for joining the growing ranks of BSBI members - it's not just about all the practical and financial benefits you'll enjoy. You'll also be helping us to support British and Irish wildflowers. How? Because while many of our almost 4,000 members carry out amazing work studying, recording, monitoring and helping to conserve wild plants across Britain and Ireland, feeding into projects such as Plant Atlas 2020, the State of Nature 2023 report, the many county Floras and the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in which BSBI is a partner, 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. 

Autumn colours by Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow
Image: Alexis Fitzgerald
Check out our nature conservation policy and our strategic plan to find out more; find out how our botanical heatmaps, developed with Natural England, are helping ensure that we get the right tree in the right place (and not in the wrong place!); check out the members who won awards in 2022 for outstanding contributions to botany; or leaf through our latest Annual Review to find out what the Society achieved last year thanks to all 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 - by around 30% in the last three years - 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 across Britain and Ireland thrive and are valued - and so are the thousands of amazing BSBI botanists who support them.

Friday 28 July 2023

Resources for horticulturally-inclined botanists

Tree Lupin naturalised near St. Andrews, Scotland
Image: P. Marks
Many botanists are as interested in horticultural plants as they are in 'wild' plants, whether because they are keen gardeners or because, as our climate changes, an increasing number of garden plants are naturalising and managing to persist in the wild without human intervention. 

This was one of the many fascinating discoveries revealed by BSBI's Plant Atlas 2020 project - more than 50% of the taxa recorded were of non-native species

Many of these are ancient introductions (archaeophytes), often brought over by the Romans, or neophytes, introduced by humans either deliberately or accidentally in the past five centuries. 

Red-hot Poker blooming in Kent
at New Year  2018
Image: D. Steere
Our 'Definitions' page explains a bit more about these terms. 

But increasingly we are noticing garden plants which used to die back in the autumn but are now 'jumping the garden fence' and becoming naturalised between pavement cracks, at the bases of walls, on waste ground... some are even managing to flower in midwinter

Red-hot Poker Kniphofia uvaria, Three-cornered Garlic Allium triquetrum and Fern-leaved Beggarticks Bidens ferulifolia have all been recorded in bloom during recent New Year Plant Hunts.  

Our in-house expert referee on garden plants (accessible only to BSBI members) has never been busier, dealing with ID queries, and of course there are gardening books and websites, but now there is another option available to botanists wanting to take a deeper dive into the identification and understanding of garden plants. 

Books in the Lindley Library
Image courtesy of the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library in London holds world-renowned collections of books on horticulture, early printed books and botanical art. 

Their modern collections are available for everyone to access but BSBI members interested in the botanical collection are now invited to sign up as researchers (this is free) and gain access to the RHS reference collection, rare books and the botanical art. 

Groups of botanists can also request a tour of the collection (free but donations invited). That's two great ways to find out more about garden plants. Just email to arrange your visit.

Early printed botanical book
 in the Lindley Library

Image courtesy of the RHS

Some of the upcoming RHS events may also be of interest to botanists. Dr Mark Spencer, BSBI County Recorder for Middlesex/ the London area, is giving a talk on 3rd August about his book Murder Most Florid: inside the mind of a forensic botanist. This is a longer version of the fascinating talk he gave at BSBI's British & Irish Botanical Conference, held last November at the Natural History Museum. 

On 8th August, Sarah Morrish (who exhibited at BSBI's 2017 Annual Exhibition Meeting, the forerunner of the British & Irish Botanical Conference) will be leading a workshop on 'Illustrating Nature: Introduction to Botanical Art in Pen & Ink'. 

Find out more about these events and book your space via this link

Thursday 27 July 2023

Growing botanical skills in Northern Ireland

An important announcement from Julia Hanmer, BSBI Chief Executive: 

"We are delighted that BSBI has been awarded funding to grow botanical skills and evidence for nature recovery in Northern Ireland, thanks to funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA)’s Environment Fund. 

"The project will work to support botanical training, recording and monitoring activities over five years, 2023-2028. We will recruit a Botanical Skills Officer, who will organise training and events to encourage plant identification and recording, as well as working to increase participation in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS). 

"We will work closely with DAERA, the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) and our NPMS partners (BSBI, Plantlife, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) as well as landowners and other organisations to ensure there are the necessary botanical skills and evidence to underpin nature recovery in Northern Ireland".

Many thanks to Julia for sharing this exciting news and to DAERA for funding this new post - more details and application forms can be found here. You can find out more about BSBI's current staff and officers on our Who's Who page, and if you are keen to know more about BSBI's botanical provision across the whole island of Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, please visit our Ireland page

Friday 30 June 2023

Botanical University Challenge: here come the finals

Contestants at BUC 2022 (held online)
The final round of the 2023 Botanical University Challenge (BUC) takes place at University of Nottingham on 5th July and BSBI is delighted to be supporting this year's event. 

BUC is an annual contest to find the most botanically knowledgeable team of students from across Britain and Ireland; it was first held in 2016 and is the brainchild of Prof John Warren, Dr Jonathan Mitchley and Prof Paul Ashton, all former members of BSBI Skills & Training (formerly Training & Education) Committee. This interview with John from 2019 gives you more background.

The Edge Hill team at BUC 2016:
Josh Styles on the team!
Image: J. Mitchley 

Previous heats took place in February and the four teams who have made it to the finals are: the Ptrinity Pteridophytes from Trinity College Dublin (a last-minute replacement for Team Stone Roses from MMU who had to drop out); Malus Intent from Eden Project Learning; the University of Cambridge team; and the Bad Birches from University of Oxford.  

You can find out more and book here to watch the live-stream or here to attend the event in person. You'll also be able to follow the action on Twitter at #BUC2023 and do feel free to try and answer the questions yourself, that's all part of the fun. 

John Warren (centre) at
BSBI Training & Education Committee:
the breeding ground for many great ideas!
Image: L. Marsh

BSBI staffers will be attending BUC 2023, chatting to students and finding out how BSBI can support them as they get started in their botanical careers. We'll have a display stand with BSBI literature and leaflets, our slide 'What Can the BSBI Offer to Botany & Plant Science Students' (see below) will be up on the screen between rounds, and we're also providing prizes for all the finalists: free student/ paperless membership of BSBI. Of course some of the students (including Billy Fullwood, Chair of BSBI Events & Comms Committee) are already very active BSBI members, so they will be able to carry their prize over to next year. 

As John Warren says, "From its humble beginnings in 2015 as an idea discussed at the BSBI Training & Education Committee, Botanical University Challenge has gone from strength to strength!". 

So keep an eye on BUC on 5th July and be amazed and inspired by those incredibly knowledgeable teams of early career botanists! 

Thursday 15 June 2023

BSBI Summer Meeting 2023: Jessica Hamilton's report

One of the many Summer Meeting excursions
Image: C. Heardman
BSBI's Annual Summer Meeting is a regular feature in our programme of field meetings and indoor events. It's our main summer get-together and the location rotates between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This year it was Ireland's turn and Jessica Hamilton, ecologist, leader of the BSBI Kerry group and member of BSBI's Committee for Ireland, was there - here is her report.

Over to Jessica:

"It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly been a whole month since the #BSBISummerMeeting took place from the 19th to the 22nd May last month!

Aquatics expert Nick Stewart leads an outdoor
workshop during the visit to Ross Island
Image: M. Sheehy Skeffington

This was a special event, not only was it the first BSBI Summer Meeting to take place in the Republic of Ireland in 12 years, but the outings took place predominantly in the environs of Killarney National Park, a place I have a very strong bias and love for, and where I have been lucky to spend a considerable amount of time botanising over the years.

The organising committee for the event was comprised of a local crew (myself, Mary Sheehan, Rory Hodd, Jean Hamilton, and Clare Heardman) along with BSBI Ireland Officer Paul Green, President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, and Field Meetings Secretary Jonathan Shanklin.

Our base for the weekend was at the Castlerosse Park Resort Hotel which is located just outside Killarney town and provided easy access to the National Park and surrounds. In total we had approximately 80 participants across the four days, with botanists coming from across Ireland, as well as from across the water in the United Kingdom. Over the course of the event, participants were encouraged to engage with social media and use the hashtag #BSBISummerMeeting when posting about the event online.

Minister Malcolm Noonan launching
 the Summer Meeting
Image: J. Hamilton 

Each day there were several outings that ran in parallel to different locations around the Killarney National Park environs. In the evenings there was dinner and evening talk(s), followed by ID sessions that looked at material collected during the various forays.   

Irish botanist Fiona O'Neill said “The weekend had everything.” 

Here’s the rundown of the outings that took place, and some of the highlights:

Friday 19th May

The meeting started off on Friday afternoon as participants began to trickle in and arrive for a weekend of botanising. Two short forays were made through the Park from the Hotel focusing on grassland, woodland and lakeshore. Sedges were a strong feature, including Carex pallescens, C. laevigata and C. vesicaria. That evening we were delighted to have Minister Malcolm Noonan TD who joined us for dinner and then officially launched the event as well as giving a wonderful speech. The Minister attended our Plant Atlas launch in Dublin in March, and we were very happy to welcome him to another BSBI event. We were then treated to talks by Mary Sheehan (National Parks & Wildlife Service) on Killarney National Park and one from Rory Hodd (County Recorder for Co. Kerry) on the flora of Kerry.

Saturday 20th May

On Saturday there were three different outings happening simultaneously

First off Clare Heardman and Paul Green led a walk along the Muckross Peninsula where participants were treated to Marsh Fern Thelypteris palustris, as well as uncommon Whitebeams such as Sorbus anglica, to name but a few.

At the same time, Rory Hodd and Jean Hamilton brought a busload of botanists to explore Glencar Valley. They first visited an acid oak woodland, and the lucky participants got to see an array of fantastic species including Tunbridge Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, Irish Spurge Euphorbia hyberna and the famous Killarney Fern Vandenboschia speciosa, which is a protected species in Ireland. After visiting the oak woodland, they visited an area of blanket bog and were treated to Atlantic bog species such as butterworts, sundews and Black Bog-rush Schoenus nigricans.

The third outing that day saw Mary Sheehan and Micheline Sheehy Skeffington lead an outing to Lough Leane to do some island botanising. The boats departed from Ross Island in picturesque conditions and took participants to visit both Rough and Inisfallen Islands. Participants saw an array of wonderful species including lakeshore species, as well as a few giant Strawberry Trees Arbutus unedo on Rough Island (image above left). 

That evening, participants were again treated to another two fantastic talks, one from Daniel Kelly on the Woods of Killarney (image on right), followed by Tim Rich, who shared his superb knowledge on Whitebeams

Sunday 21st May

On Sunday, three outings again took place: Daniel Kelly and Clare Heardman led an outing to Derrycunnihy Woods. Clare recaps “Our group, led by Professor Daniel Kelly, took a boat trip from Ross Castle up through the Killarney lakes to Lord Brandon's Cottage and then walked the Kerry Way across the bog and up through the magnificent Derrycunnihy Woods” 

Prof Daniel Kelly &
fern expert Fred Rumsey
admiring epiphytes
Image: C. Heardman

This particular outing ended up being a firm favourite with those who ventured on it - Fiona O'Neill said "The Sunday morning boat trip from Ross Castle across the lakes is one of those lifetime high points” and Dr Jonathan Mitchley also had this to say about the trip: “At the top of my list must be Sunday’s boat trip across the lakes, at over an hour across water as calm as a mill pond past wonderful green vistas it was a trip to treasure”

Not only did they get to see wonderful views, they also saw some pretty fantastic plants, including Spring Quillwort Isoetes echinospora and Pillwort Pilularia globulifera, as well as the ubiquitous Filmy-ferns Hymenophyllum spp., along with the quintessential Killarney Fern. They were also very lucky to get good views of a White-tailed Eagle that was perched nearby.

I led an outing to my neck of the woods, North Kerry, where we walked a section of the Dingle Way and then went onto Banna Dune slack for some coastal gems. 

The Dingle Way excursion, led by Jessica
Image: M. Sheehy Skeffington

Julie Larkin (joint County Recorder for Co. Waterford) had this to say “On Sunday morning Jessica Hamilton led us along the Dingle Way where we walked across the lower northern slopes of the Slieve Mish Mountains with spectacular views over Tralee Bay. Species we encountered along the way included Large-flowered Butterwort Pinguicula grandiflora, Pale Butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia and other wonderful bog species.  We also saw the dainty Cornish Moneywort Sibthorpia europaea, whose distribution in Ireland is restricted to the Dingle Peninsula,” Julie also got to see her first Kerry Slug Geomalacus maculosus which is a curious species whose range is restricted to the south-west of Ireland.  

Clambering around to see
the Cornish Moneywort
Image: J. Hamilton

We then ventured to Banna dune slack that was awash with Marsh Orchids. Other highlights included Adder’s-tongue Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum, Squinancywort Asperula cynanchica, which is a real western species in Ireland, and the two species of Fern-grass, Catapodium marinum and C. rigidum).  

The final outing that took place that day was to Torc Mountain, along the Old Kenmare Road and was led by Rory and Mary Sheehan where participants saw a mix of woodland and oceanic bog flora, including Brown Beak-sedge Rhynchospora fuscaThat evening I gave a talk on the Flora of North Kerry which featured some nice places to botanise in North Kerry, and it of course featured my two #BotanyDogs Lilly and Ben. 

Monday 22nd May

Although things were winding down, there was still exploring to be done and plants to ID! 

After dinner, poring over a big mystery sedge!
Image: M. Sheehy Skeffington

Paul and Micheline visited Tomies Woods, an oceanic old oak woodland located on the western edge of Lough Leane where participants got to encounter yet more characteristic Killarney woodland assemblages, as well as the scarce Ivy-leaved Bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea. There was also an outing to Gap of Dunloe led by Jonathan Shanklin, where Nick Stewart collected an unusual very tall sedge in the lake and recorded Awlwort Subularia aquatica last seen in the Gap of Dunloe in 1910!

The montivagant Rory Hodd led a Rough Crew outing up the Macgillycuddy Reeks where participants were treated to a range of montane flora such as Roseroot Rhodiola rosea, Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis and montane Saxifrage species such as Irish Saxifraga rosacea and Starry S. stellaris

Rory and the Rough Crew
Image: C. Heardman

An outing to Muckross surrounds was led by Sean Forde and Mary Sheehan where they measured a veteran yew tree by the Abbey and discussed sustainable farm management, involving the famed Kerry cattle.

To wrap things up, we all had an enthralling few days. You really can’t beat being in the field with fellow botanists and nature enthusiasts. 

We started planning the event and the outings back in the autumn of 2022, so it was great to see everything come to fruition so smoothly and it more than made up for the long Zoom meetings.

As Fiona O Neil says, “After three years of solo or small group outings, joining the 2023 BSBI Summer Meeting reminded me why being with a large group of botanists, and those who love plants, is such an enriching experience.”

Large-flowered Butterwort seen during the 
Summer Meeting
Image: C. Heardman
Thanks to my colleagues for helping organise the successful weekend and to all the participants who came along and shared their incredible knowledge. We are especially grateful to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for providing funding and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan TD for attending and launching the event.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Jonathan Mitchley (Dr M) which I think perfectly summarises everyone’s feelings and thoughts about the event:

“Each day brought new landscapes and plant discoveries, for this visitor from relatively parched Berkshire, huge rocks and tree trunks dripping with epiphytes including filmy ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens was a major botanical highlight. But perhaps even more than this, meeting with so many botanical personalities all generous and giving of their knowledge, experience and good humour was the ultimate highpoint, reinforcing what I already knew, botanists are such wonderful folk, I can’t wait for the next instalment!”

Many thanks to Jessica for this report and to everyone who shared comments and photos, or helped organise such a fabulous event!