Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Getting pteridological

While an intrepid group of fern-studiers are getting ready for this weekend's Dryopteris workshop with Fred Rumsey, I was out hunting for a special little fern last week in Caernarvonshire (with Wendy and Mari). 
Polystichum lonchitis (Holly Fern)
There were some other interesting alpines around, including this: 
Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel)

Friday, 9 September 2016

Orchids and more Eyebrights

After the Welsh AGM the next event on my Welsh calendar was the Caerdeon recording meeting over a weekend in Merionethshire. I was able to join for two full days although unfortunately not the final day, when I had hoped to join Martin Rand and others climbing up a mountain to look for Circaea alpina (Alpine Enchanter's-nightshade) and other treasures. In the event the weather was very poor anyway...

The real highlight of Caerdeon was the group who found Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) - as already reported in BSBI News and Views. 
Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) Photo: Sarah Stille
Back in the office in August, I heard about another exceptional find, of Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) in Radnorshire. Congratulations to the excellent finders of these two! You can read more about both these species in the BSBI Species Accounts. 
Pseudorchis albida (Small-White Orchid) Photo and record: Sorcha Lewis
Towards the end of August I spent a little while looking at more Euphrasias (Eyebrights), collecting specimens which I was able to take to the Recorders' Conference and Chris Metherell was able to confirm them. There was a full range, including E. arctica and E. nemorosa, and E. officinalis subsp. anglica and pratensis from a range of sites I've visited in the last few months. One specimen though seemed just too difficult and Chris took it away for further examination. However, I was glad to find I had correctly identified one or two of them myself using the keys (a preview of the new Euphrasia handbook which is awaited most eagerly)! For more reporting on Recorders' Conference please visit the BSBI News and Views blog. 
Chris Metherall describing various parts of Euphrasia (Eyebrights) at Recorders' Conference. Photo: Sue Townsend

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


From Carmarthenshire the next stop was Brecon, for the Welsh AGM. This was a great few days. I was joined by a few keen people on the Tuesday morning to visit Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, where we saw some treasures - from Asplenium viride (Green Spleenwort) which turned out to be very common in the area - to Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting) - one of my particular plants of interest, which almost eluded us but turned up at the end of the day, close to where we had started.
Asplenium viride (Green Spleenwort)

Genista pilosa (Hairy Greenweed)

Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting)
Two days later I found myself balancing along ledges high on the slopes of Cribin, in pursuit of the Attenborough's Hawkweed, along with Tim Rich, who found and named the new species. There was plenty else to see up there though. 
Ledge vegetation - Sedum rosea (Roseroot) in centre with Scabiosa columbaria (Small Scabious)

Tim Rich with the Hieracium Attenboroughianum (Attenborough's Hawkweed)
Back in Brecon there were excellent talks each evening - James Cresswell gave us a potted geological history of the Earth, illustrated by Brecknockshire; Mike Porter talked about the history of botanical recording in Brecknockshire (preceeded by a short talk from me about Welsh Rare Plant Registers) and Ray Woods talked about the conservation of plants and fungi - stressing the importance of good knowledge of our rare plants and fungi - and of joined-up thinking in terms of sharing the knowledge. 

There were a range of interesting exhibits including an impressive collection of live plants grown by Andy Shaw, some Hedge Brambles in Brecknockshire from Mike Porter, photographs from John Crellin illustrating the activity of the Brecknock Botany Recording Group and Brecknock Mistletoe records, some hybrids with missing parents from Andy Jones, and some details of the Polypodii of Flintshire by Martyn Stead. 

It was an impressively organised few days as ever, and the weather was remarkably good for a field meeting. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A visit to Carmarthenshire

I managed to join the recording group at Glynhir for one day out a week ago. We were assigned a monad with only two post-2000 records, so it was all a surprise. We began walking along a lane and then a footpath across fields - and some lovely fields they were, like this for example with the Carmarthenshire (and South Wales) speciality, Carum verticillatum (Whorled Caraway) turning the field white.
Carum verticillatum, Whorled Caraway, in a meadow.
Eventually having had enough lanes, and to increase our potential species list, we ventured up onto a hillside, which at first glance seemed unrewarding, covered in bracken and coarse grass. But determination was rewarded when we stumbled across a small but delightful bog, where this Drosera rotundifolia Round-leaved Sundew was spotted, amongst a host of other delights. 
Drosera rotundifolia, Round-leaved Sundew, with Narthecium ossifragum, Bog Asphodel
By the end of the day the tetrad had (I think) well over 200 species, so that was one small contribution to the Atlas 2020 coverage for the county. Meanwhile, my children had a great time chasing the ducks at Glynhir!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Eyebrights, cowbane and a busy July coming up...

Last week I met up with a number of botanists in Dolwyddelan who were equally brave or foolish as I am - it was pouring with rain. Luckily some had come prepared with specimens, so after a brief half-hour foray we called discretion the better part of valour and retired with a hot drink to go through some Euphrasia keys. This was for me the first proper attempt since the workshop in February, and there are still some big challenges there! But I do now have some specimens pressing to take to some upcoming events to see if anyone can confirm the identification. We hope to repeat the day, perhaps in Denbighshire in August, so if you are interested in informal Euphrasia identification please do get in touch for more details in the near future.

When I got home (early) the rain was pausing and I decided to investigate a site I've wanted to return to for a while. A new housing estate has been built adjacent to a pond which was the only county site for cowbane (Cicuta virosa). It had been fenced off for a few years during the building works and I was hoping that it would still be there. Luckily, it seems that this time the developers have been advised well, as the pond remains, as does the cowbane, well fenced off and next to a meadow which looks like it may be left for conservation. At least from the point of view of the cowbane, this development does not seem to have been a bad thing.
Cowbane (Cicuta virosa) happily by the pond with new housing in the background.
July is a busy month for botanists in Wales. This week is the annual Glynhir recording week in Carmarthenshire (which I shall be joining briefly at the end of the week). Next week is the Welsh AGM in Brecon. The programme for this looks great, and currently the weather doesn't look bad either. Due to a cancellation, there is a double room (in fact a one-bedroom cottage) available for a late booking! If you can come for several days it is great value - so please contact John Crellin, the organiser. At the end of the following week, the Caerdeon recording weekend in Merionethshire also promises great botanical excursions, a chance to contribute to local recording, and a nice chance to socialise with some friendly botanists. If you are unable to commit to the whole weekend, the organisers will still undoubtedly be glad to see you for a day of botanising.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


One of the top species we hope to monitor this year is Trollius europaeus, globeflower (cronell in Welsh). Trollius is listed on the Welsh Section 42 list (Section 42 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 lists species of principal importance for conservation of biological diversity in Wales). Trollius is not nationally scarce (it is widespread in northern England and Scotland) and is not red-listed, but it may still be declining.

Trollius likes wet environments, but is not so fussy about pH and nutrient status. However, it seems to be vulnerable to over-grazing, and although it is perennial it may not reproduce easily (it requires a specific fly to pollinate it, seedlings are vulnerable to slugs, and the seedbank is not long-lived. For more information see the BSBI Species Account.

Two weeks ago I visited two sites - firstly a river site with Lucia Ruffino, where we found one site on a small rocky island, and then two more smaller sites upstream. These rocky river sites must be protected from grazing, but they must also be vulnerable to winter floods... they must have deep roots to survive last year. But it is hard to see these small clumps as anything but a relict population. I would envision a scheme to collect seed and reestablish it in riverside pasture, but creating the right conditions for germination and survival would be challenging!
Trollius on a small island...
There are plenty more small riverside plants not far away along the Afon Conwy.

The next day I went out with some of the Merioneth Nats group, on the shores of Llyn Tegid, where we found a much larger population, with hundreds of plants flowering in lakeside woodland. This appears a much more sustainable population; I visited nearly 2km of lakeshore and there was one large population and several smaller outliers. It is hard to imagine it wouldn't be found on other sections of the lake shore.

Trollius widespread in lakeside woodland...
It would be really good to receive details of other populations of Trollius - to get an idea of the different populations in Wales, and how healthy they seem. Please do get in touch if you would be interested. I'll be visiting several sites (especially in North Wales - Caernarvonshire, Merionethshire, Denbighshire) over the next few months and if you'd like to join me just drop me an email! 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

More North Wales Limestone

Still in North Wales on the limestone outcrops, here is the green-winged orchid. The only previous detailed record I had seen said 16 spikes, but last week I found around 70, and a few more just into the next 10km square. This is a great time of year to visit your local populations and check on them - a count is useful.
Anacamptis morio - Green-winged orchid