Wednesday, 18 January 2017

New Year Plant Hunt

Apologies for the delay in posting! 

I thought I'd start the New Year Plant Hunt on 2nd January, when I got out in the garden with my children and recorded seven wild (weed) species flowering in my vegetable garden!  It was bitterly cold and frosty, which made it harder to spot flowers. 
Six out of seven species from my vegetable garden!
On the Wednesday (4th January) seven botanists met at Llanddulas and in a full three hours we recorded 46 species. The weather was kind and dry, if bitterly cold on the shore (but more sheltered as we walked inland and returned to the coast through the village). 
36 out of 46 species from Llanddulas.
Five out of seven hardy botanists at Llanddulas. 
This was the sixth year of the New Year Plant Hunt and was incredibly popular although somewhat fewer flowering plants were found this year than in 2016. In fact the number of lists submitted was very similar (432 in 2016; 462 in 2017), but both the number of records and the number of species was down. For more details and to view the lists, visit the New Year Plant Hunt results page. In Wales, (by my estimation) 26 lists were created, from nine counties. The new NYPH App was a new innovation, allowing anyone to create records and submit them (potentially with linked photographs) from a smartphone (and there was a desktop alternative for anyone without a smartphone!). This allowed us to watch the map on the results page getting covered with markers. Meanwhile those on Twitter and Facebook could rapidly follow stories, and Louise kept the BSBI News and Views blog up to date as well. Of particular note in Wales, John Crellin wrote a blog post for the Brecknock group's visit to Ystradgynlais, and Tim Rich (the founder of the New Year Plant Hunt?) with friends, completed a list of 60 species in Cardiff. Well, it is the capital of Wales, and presumably the urban heat island effect, plus a few aliens - and of course the skills to identify them - contributed to the longest list in Wales. Congratulations Tim - but well done to everyone regardless of the length of their list. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Seasons greetings - and New Year coming up

Once more it is time to wish everyone a very happy Christmas.

Once the main festivities are over, it will be time to get out for the BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt. This is now an annual fixture, and we expect more people than ever to be involved - for more information on the requirements, see the BSBI website. This year there are special apps to download, to enable the data to be collected and collated more efficiently, so please take note - and this is an interesting opportunity to dabble in "mobile recording" if you haven't yet. If you don't have a smartphone, don't worry, we are expecting a desktop version of the app which will hopefully be available from the website very soon. For more information, see the BSBI's News and Views blog, or follow on Twitter or Facebook.

If you want to join me, and Delyth Williams, in Denbighshire, we hope to go out on the last possible day - Wednesday 4th January (fingers crossed the weather is ok - might have to go somewhere on Monday just to get a list in in case it pours on Wednesday).  We will meet at the beach carpark in Llanddulas at 10.30. Please contact me (email/ mobile phone) in advance in case the plan changes - bring warm clothes and perhaps a thermos in case we need to warm up. Last year's was wet - see my blog post here. And if you'd like me to post information about your plan, please email it - John Crellin is the only other Welsh one I've heard, meeting on Monday 2nd January at Ystradgynlais - but please contact John for more details. For their last year's hunt, see John's blog.

Denbighshire 2016

Before I wish everyone a Happy Christmas, I was sent a report from Delyth Williams, the Vice-County Recorder for Denbighshire. Delyth asked if I would like to put this on the website, or on my blog - and why not? I'd be happy to share reports from any or all the Welsh counties, perhaps more to come over the next few months.

Delyth writes:

Denbs Group 2016 - some recollections. 

The year started off on 6th March in the Ruthin Rugby Club for an update of progress and plans for the season, followed by a much-needed look at plants in the Llanfwrog tetrad. Even though it was bitterly cold we set off, but when the sleet and snow took over while we were in the church yard we decided to call it a (very short) day.

Thereafter there were about 15 advertised Denbs Group meetings over the season, plus a few short-term weather dependent arrangements. Add that to several independent recorders who have contributed considerably from their respective tetrads and the total comes to over 20,000 records from VC50 Denbs for 2016.

The main thrust of this year’s selection was to visit previously recorded tetrads at a different time of year to ensure best possible coverage. On the whole the weather was kind to us with the notable exception of a day of monsoon scale in June in Pentrellyncymer SH9752. We persevered though and were well-rewarded with new sites for Sedum forsterianum Rock stonecrop, Melica nutans Mountain Melick, Vicia orobus Wood Bitter-vetch, Carex pallescens Pale sedge and some lovely specimens of Araucaria araucana  Monkey-puzzle trees scattered through the village.
Sedum forsterianum (Rock Stonecrop)
Sedum forsterianum (Rock Stonecrop)

On 1st May a visit to the far west of the vice-county to Llanrwst SH7962/3 added 219 new taxa, most noteworthy some lovely estate planted trees such as Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia, Cedrus libanii Cedar of Lebanon, Abies grandis Giant Fir and Carpinus betulus Hornbeam. The origin and history of the trees in this area would merit further study. Asplenium ceterach Rustyback fern, although not rare, is always pleasing to find and it is common in these parts in the mortar of walls.
We went south in early June to Moelfre SJ1828, adding 199 new taxa. It was a lovely day in these gentle unspoilt hills yielding Saxifraga tridactylites Rue-leaved Saxifrage new to the hectad and Jasione montana Sheep’s-bit, Luzula pilosa Hairy Wood-rush and Myosotis discolour Changing Forget-me-not which are not uncommon, just pleasing to see.

A few hardy souls yomped for many hours in July over the Migneint looking for Carex magellanica Tall bog-sedge, which we re-found and Carex limosa Bog-sedge, which we didn’t.

August took us to Nant-y-Rhiw SH8258 where we confirmed two locations for Carex laevigata Smooth-stalked Sedge, which is by no means common and where Aphanes arvensis Parsley-piert, Lepidium didymum Lesser Swine-cress and Odontites vernus Red Bartsia were new to SH85. There was a surprising find of Thalictrum minus Lesser Meadow-rue doing well in the mortar all over the walls of the old chapel.

Stunning views of familiar places from a different angle made a September meeting to Ty Nant, Dinmael SH9944 enjoyable. We topped up more records for the tetrad, finding Vicia tetrasperma and Chenopodium rubrum Red-footed Goosefoot, both new to the hectad.

John Palmer organised a successful Bramble recording week-end in July with experts Rob Randall and David and Joyce Earl based in Llysfasi College. A full report will be in the BSBI Yearbook.

The season ended on 30th October along the limestone of Offa’s Dyke Path at Llandegla SJ1952/3, adding 145 new taxa and showing promise of a place to re-visit next Spring.

Very many thanks to all those of you who came along and let’s look forward to another good year in 2017. If you weren’t able to make it this year, there’s always next!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Guest post - roses in Montgomeryshire

When member (and regular recorder) Ruth Dawes sent me some lovely photographs, I thought more people would like to see them... and then she wrote me a guest article on the event in question. Big thanks to Ruth - and if anyone else would like a "guest post" on this blog please just send me an article and some photos!

Ruth writes:

Kate Thorne’s Botanical Workshop for Montgomeryshire Flora Group  on 11th October 2016 

A dozen intrepid botanists came from the west (Wales and borders) to Church Pulverbatch in the foothills of the Long Mynd and Stiperstones in Shropshire.  This delightful remote village is recorded in the Domesday Book and is believed to be the site of a prehistoric fort.  There was to be no traversing the ankle twisting rocks of the Stiperstones ridge today.  Our aim was to study Rosa, Chenopodiaceae and other groups.  We were warmly welcomed into Kate and John Thorne’s lovely farmhouse kitchen, where we had delicious coffee made in Kate’s new milk frother machine.   As this was accompanied by Sylvia Backhouse’s seed, fruit and quality cocoa rondels, Sue Southam’s cheese straws and M&S chocolate biscuits; here was a taste of what was to come.

Soon we were immersed in specimens and Kate’s excellent handouts.  Kate’s long term knowledge of the genera was imparted in an easy informal manner, ably assisted by retired husband, John, a talented gardener, who had grown numerous wild roses from cuttings.   Fresh specimens were regularly brought in from the garden in case we should start chatting again instead of working.  Gradually we separated out the dog roses from the downy roses and the sweet briars; even if our noses weren’t refined enough to detect apple (sweet briar) or Cherry Blossom boot polish (downy).  Technical terms were patiently explained verbally as well as being available on handouts with line drawings.  We learned (or relearned) everything from acicles, through subulate to villous.

At lunchtime, a veritable feast appeared before us.  Not only Kate and John’s homemade tomato and lentil and potato and lovage soups, but also hot pizzas and miniature savoury flans for starters, quickly followed by salads, turkey, cheeses and artisan bread, chutneys  and pickles, provided by numerous talented people in the group.  We finished with a Rosa and Rubus cake made by Ruth, washed down with Appletize, complete with a toast from Steve to Kate for her birthday on the 12th.  We managed a reasonable rendering of Happy Birthday both in English and Welsh too.  At last we were allowed out and Max the lurcher was delighted to join in the fun.  We practiced again outside in the garden.  (I couldn’t help admiring the way Kate coped with this big garden, not to mention playing church organ and ringing the bells when John was still working as a GP in Shetland.) 
Serving the Appletize

Ruth's Rosa and Rubus cake

We then needed to walk off some of the ubiquitous food so we pottered off to a nearby field (with permission) to see superb fresh specimens of Orobanche minor parasitic on agricultural red clover planted for winter sheep feed.  It was a real surprise to see the Common Broomrape looking so fresh.
Orobanche minor parasitic on agricultural red clover

After admiring the hilly view of south Shropshire, we were ushered back to focus on aquatics, arable weeds and Atriplex.  A big specimen of Potamogeton polygonifolius taught us not to rely on size of leaves alone for ID of this species and various tips about veins and hinges or lack of the latter were passed round.  We noted that Petty Spurge had petioles, which was handy to remember.

Finally Steve Attwood-Wright produced some of his splendid samples of colourful, expertly woven cloth and produced an FSC laminated guide to explain how he hoped to work on some patterns with fine botanical detail.
Steve demonstrating his colourful woven cloth and ideas for future fine botanical detail

Many thanks to Kate and John for a superb day.  I have since spotted Rosa tomentosa at a new site so the retraining worked.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Dryopteris and more over the weekend

Despite a most inclement weather forecast, sixteen intrepid pteridologists joined the workshop this weekend. Most of the group joined Fred Rumsey on Friday evening for an introductory talk, but I met them on Saturday morning, after driving through pouring rain to Glydyr forest. For many of us the key aim was to become more confident with the Dryopteris affinis agg., and the first site did not disappoint as we rapidly saw D. filix-mas (for comparison), followed by D. affinis, D. borreri and D. cambrensis, then \D. oreades, and plenty more to compare. D. dilatata was also in this site, bringing the species (of Dryopteris) count to six!

Fred Rumsey explaining the characters of Dryopteris affinis (Scaly Male-fern)
Having found all the Dryopteris in the area, we also visited an old mine site, and saw this curious plant.
Asplenium septentrionale (Forked Spleenwort)
After a very damp lunch, and thoroughly drippy, we decided we had seen all we were likely to see in the area, and returned to Plas Tan-y-Bwlch for the benefits of a drying room, hot cups of tea, and a nice dry study room, in which to study the specimens of the morning (as well as an extensive collection of Dryopteris brought by Fred and by Helena Crouch). It proved much easier to use a hand-lens in the study room, and after dinner we were rewarded for our hard work with a fascinating after-dinner slideshow from Fred, about the many species and hybrids of Dryopteris. 
The workroom with many specimens of Dryopteris. 
Next day we were glad to wake to clear blue skies and a cold autumnal feel in the air, as we started our day with a visit to Coed Ganllwyd, where we saw Dryopteris aemula (Hay-scented Buckler-fern) and also both species of Hymenophyllum (Filmy-ferns). This was a beautiful example of the Welsh rainforest - Atlantic oak woodland simply dripping with spray from the waterfall, and covered with ferns and bryophytes.
Dryopteris aemula (Hay-scented Buckler-fern)
Botanists by the waterfall
We then had a drive over to another completely contrasting site, on Eglwyseg Rocks, where we walked up a steep and narrow path in bright warm sunshine, to see Dryopteris submontana (Rigid Buckler-fern) within a small area of limestone.  This baked dry site is another very special one and we also took a quick look at Sorbus cuneifolia (Llangollen Whitebeam) growing nearby.
Botanists walking across limestone scree
Dryopteris submontana (Rigid Buckler-fern)
Sorbus  cuneifolia (Llangollen Whitebeam)
It proved to be a great weekend, with such contrasting sites, and plenty of ferns. The grand total came to eight species of Dryopteris, six species of Asplenium, and a further 11 species, bringing us to 25 ferns in total. 

This workshop was very popular, and there was a long waiting list, so we hope to run it again next year. Priority may well be given to those who tried to book but were unable to get a place this year. 

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