Thursday, 11 February 2016

Is the next Japanese Knotweed already in your garden? Part Two

Are your garden plants staying put or trying
 to  get over the border? Tell Katharina!
Image: K. Dehnen-Schmutz 
Great to hear an update from Katharina about her survey to identify which of today's ornamental plants are most likely to become tomorrow's invasive aliens

"My survey of ornamental plants spreading in gardens has been quite successful with 40 respondents reporting 147 plants, comprising around 117 different species - I'm still checking synonyms etc. I have also been lucky enough to receive funding from Coventry University to develop this further by having someone to support the database work as well as developing a project proposal for a larger scale project – including the BSBI of course! 

Green Alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens:
this garden plant escapes and can become a real thug!
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"Since the data so far look quite promising, ideally I would like to have a few more responses to help make a more credible dataset for publication and for any future funding application. 

"I was wondering if BSBI botanists who can identify ornamental plants with confidence would like to contribute to the survey? I am planning to run it until the end of February and - in case I get overwhelmed by responses - I now have some support, so should be able to manage!"

So, if you can help Katharina, please check out the survey page and get in touch with her. Maybe you are a New Year Plant Hunter just itching for a new challenge for February? And if you are one of the 40 respondents - thank you very much for your contribution, which has helped Katharina's project get this far!  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Getting ready for a season of BSBI meetings

Meetings & Communications Committee in action,
February 2016. Jon in green jumper, Sarah on his right.
Image: L. Marsh
Off to London last week for a meeting of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee. A small team of people (I'm proud to be among their number) meets twice each year to plan our programme of national field and indoor meetings and to make sure that BSBI is communicating clearly and effectively with our members, our wider support base, policy-makers, academia and the media. 

This year's programme of field meetings across Britain & Ireland is already available here and Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin keeps the webpage updated weekly. 

Sharing ID tips in the field -
visit to The Umbra, one of four field trips
on offer at the BSBI Summer Meeting 2015
Image: O. Duffy 
Jon is also leading on organising this year's Summer Meeting, to be held at Blencathra, Cumbria, over the long weekend of 19th-23rd of May. More details here, including a booking form. 

If you haven't been to a Summer Meeting before, you can get a flavour of what's on offer by reading some of the reports filed by me from last year's Summer Meeting in Northern Ireland and by Jon from the 2014 Summer Meeting in Scotland

We have also started to prepare for this year's BSBI Exhibition Meeting, to be held on 26th November at CEH Wallingford where committee member Jodey works, so she'll be leading on organisation with Kylie, Ian and I helping again. And Sarah is already looking at possible locations for next year's Summer Meeting, which will be held in Wales, and for the 2017 Exhibition Meeting in London. Are we organised or what!

Meetings & Communications Committee,
February 2016. From left: Jodey, Kylie &
BSBI Head of Operations Jane Houldsworth
Image: L. Marsh
The committee seemed quite pleased with my report on BSBI communications. It was difficult to report on our Twitter following, which is growing by the day, the many people participating in #wildflowerhour every Sunday evening, the outreach success of the New Year Plant Hunt, the young people we've engaged and the media coverage we generated without sounding horribly smug! 

Committee member and Plant Hunt Co-ordinator Ryan did an amazing job processing the data and he really enjoyed working with BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker on the analysis, which is almost ready for publication - we are just triple-checking those amazing results and then we'll communicate what we've found - but first you have time to check out those lovely meetings!  

Monday, 8 February 2016

Botanical snippets for February

Image courtesy of Floral Images
A few botanical snippets for you: 

There's a new version of Plant Tracker here - the app that helps you track the spread of invasive non-native species.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has an interesting campaign, reported here in the local paper, to "reverse the dramatic decline in many wild flowers that were once a common sight in the county".   There is a mention for BSBI and reference to some of the once common plants designated Near Threatened on the England Red List 2013, such as Ragged-robin, Green-winged orchid and Common rock-rose.

Wildflower Hour goes from strength to strength, with hundreds of people taking to Twitter on Sunday evenings from 8-9pm so they can share images of plants seen in bloom during the previous week. 

Common rock-rose
Image courtesy of Floral Images
This is a great time of year to check out training courses coming up during 2016. As well as looking in the obvious places like the BSBI Training page and the Field Studies Council website, do check out your local Wildlife Trust to see what they are up to. Here is BCNWT's training programme for this year, with courses on sedges, aquatics, and an introduction to using a wild flower key from the excellent Brian Eversham. Book quickly if you want a space on Brian's course!  

While you have your diaries out, have you seen the programme and booking form for this May's NFBR conference? 17 speakers already booked - 16 of them look really interesting and the other one will be me, wittering on about BSBI. Feel free to come along and heckle!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Corn Cleavers: Endangered and unloved

BSBI received an interesting invitation last week from ARKive, the multimedia guide to international endangered species. They wondered if BSBI would like to nominate an unloved and overlooked plant for a global Valentine's Day poll to find the species most deserving of our love. 

Corn Cleavers - note the diagnostic fruits
Image: Ian Denholm
Ian Denholm proposed Galium tricornutum Corn Cleavers and here is why we think this plant deserves your love:

 ·         Name of species:
 Galium tricornutum Corn Cleavers (Rubiaceae)

·         Conservation status:
 Critically Endangered: GB Red List 2005; England Red List 2014.

·         Why the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland love it:

This may be Corn Cleavers’ last chance to find love. Unlike Coffee and Gardenia (in the same family) nobody longs for Corn Cleavers in the morning or swoons at his scent. Formerly a widespread “weed” among cereal crops but - unlike Centaurea cyanus  Cornflower and Agrostemma githago Corncockle – nobody wants the unshowy flowers of Corn Cleavers in their 21st Century Wildflower Seed Mix. Easily confused with Galium aparine Common Cleavers or Sticky Willie, but Corn Cleavers is much less common and not so clingy.

·         Threats to Corn Cleavers survival:

Corn Cleavers has declined drastically due to increasing agricultural intensification and only one viable population now remains in Britain – it needs the regular cycle of disturbance enjoyed back in those traditionally-managed cornfields. Although it comes up occasionally as a casual, eg in Newcastle in the C19th and in Cambridgeshire in 1996 following disturbance due to road works, Corn Cleavers cannot persist in such surroundings. 

Ian Denholm examining arable weeds
 at Rothamsted Research
Image courtesy of I. Denholm
·Information on BSBI's work with this species:

BSBI’s volunteer members continue to record and map any sightings of Corn Cleavers across Britain and Ireland and our expert plant referees confirm any identifications. We monitor the one remaining viable population in Hertfordshire and our Head of Science has been working with the Oxfordshire Rare Plants Group to reintroduce it to a site where it once occurred. Seed from Hertfordshire has also been sown in an arable weed reserve in Buckinghamshire and is stored in Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank.

You can also see this profile of Corn Cleavers on the ARKive website here. Note that this is an international poll so Corn Cleavers may not get many votes in Australia, where we are told it is a pest! 

Please show your love for Corn Cleavers, and your support for the work BSBI is doing to conserve it in England, by voting in the ARKive poll here.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

New Year Plant Hunt in the media II

Red Campion, one of the 'Autumn Stragglers'
which comprised 76%  of our
New Year Plant Hunt 2016 records.
Image: Pete Stroh
BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt was featured in today's edition of The Observer - you can read the article here.

On Friday afternoon, I really enjoyed talking to Fiona Stalker about New Year Plant Hunt results in Scotland. 

Fiona presents BBC Radio Scotland's 'Out for the Weekend' programme. 

You can hear the interview here - our bit starts around 1 hour 50 minutes in.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

BSBI New Year Plant Hunt in the media

Bulbous Buttercup in bloom at New Year
Image: Oisin Duffy
Media coverage of the New Year Plant Hunt kicked off on Monday with a brief mention on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - now available on iPlayer here and we are at 1 hour 40 minutes in. Listen carefully or you'll miss it!

Fortunately coverage by Mike McCarthy in Monday's Independent was much more comprehensive! If you missed it in the print version of The Indy then don't worry - you can read it here. It was also in The i which is print only. 

Pineappleweed in bloom:
 widely recorded during the
 New Year Plant Hunt
Image: Pete Stroh
Reports followed in The Daily Mail Online (who needs celebrities when we have wild flowers?) and The Telegraph covered the New Year Plant Hunt on both its news page and its gardening page.

Great to see images in the national press by BSBI members and New Year Plant Hunters such as recent member Karen Woolley (remember Karen's Common Centaury in flower on Day One?), BSBI Science Officer Pete Stroh who was lead author on the England Red Listace photographer Marc Cruise, from the west of Ireland, Lliam Rooney aka Botany Bill (who provided the excellent plant ID videos linked from the top of this page), and New Year Plant Hunt prize-winner James

We are also in Tech Times and the Bournemouth Echo!

But the publication everybody wants to see right now - and it's winging its way to BSBI members as we speak - is BSBI News

This plant features on the front cover
of BSBI News #131
Image: Ian Strachan
Here's a sneaky peek (on right) at the plant featured on the front cover of the latest issue - can you guess what it is? I'm trying to wheedle a few highlights out of the editors and share them here. Just so people who haven't yet joined BSBI can see what they are missing!

Remember, if you took part in the New Year Plant Hunt and you can tell a Daisy from a Dandelion, you are officially a botanist - now BSBI can help you get more involved and develop your skills. 

For non-members, there are free ID resources here, training opportunities here (and BSBI training grants to help you!) and if you click on the interactive map on our homepage, you can get in touch with friendly botanists in your area. Why not try going along to a local or national field meeting and see if you like it? Then decide if you want to join us!  

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

BSBI New Year Plant Hunt 2016: the results

Ivy Broomrape recorded in flower
at six locations across Britain
Image: Karen Woolley
The results are in for BSBI’s fifth New Year Plant Hunt, when wildflower enthusiasts across Britain and Ireland head out over the holidays to see what is in bloom in their local patch.

More than 850 plant-lovers spent up to three hours between 1st and 4th January hunting for wild plants in flower and we'd like to thank them all for contributing to these amazing results:  
  • A total of 8,568 records of plants in flower from across Britain and Ireland.
  • A stunning 612 different species were found to be in flower, compared to 368 last year.
  • We received more than 400 lists - around half of them contained 20 or more species.
Ryan Clark, who co-ordinated the New Year Plant Hunt again this year, said “It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to Shetland and Norfolk to Donegal. 

Red Campion:
an "Autumn Straggler"
Image: Lliam Rooney
"As expected, the milder south and west of Britain had the highest numbers of species still in flower, but we also had more than 60 species reported blooming in Edinburgh. Lists from Ireland also had consistently high numbers of plants in flower at New Year”.

Do the numbers of plants flowering this New Year herald an early spring?

BSBI’s Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker said “There does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring. Spring-flowering specialists, such as Lesser Celandine, Cow Parsley and Sweet Violet, were widely recorded but they make up less than a fifth of the total. 

“At least three quarters of the plants recorded were ‘Autumn Stragglers’ like Yarrow, Red Campion and Red Dead-nettle that had carried on flowering in the absence of a hard frost. 

Hawthorn in bloom
Image: Marc Cruise
"The two most commonly recorded plants were Daisy and Dandelion – which we would expect to be flowering at this time of year.

Perhaps more surprising was Hawthorn in bloom!"

612 species in flower represents about a quarter of the species that occur regularly in Britain and Ireland. A number of these are aliens from warmer climates that may have escaped from gardens or cultivation and are continuing to flower until winter frosts knock them back. 

Horseshoe Vetch:
Francis Rose's Wildflower Key 

(1981) tells us that this plant 
flowers May-July!
Image: Lliam Rooney  
As in previous years, urban areas tended to have more species in flower than rural areas. This is to be expected: there are more sheltered and disturbed areas with warm micro-climates where native and alien plants, including garden escapes, can thrive.

Kevin said “Conventional wisdom on what should flower when is clearly out of date, and for many alien plants we simply don’t have good data on peak flowering times. 

"The New Year Plant Hunt results will help provide an up-to-date picture of what’s going on. Many thanks to all the volunteers who contributed to New Year Plant Hunt 2016”.