Tuesday, 28 July 2015

BSBI Recording Week in Mayo

Happy botanists at Lough Lannagh,
Castlebar, Co. Mayo
Image: M. Long
The Mayo Recording Week is now underway and first reports are coming in from Irish Officer Maria Long, who says:

"Successful (though soggy) day 1, easing ourselves into the Mayo BSBI recording week. We made two plant lists, both with over 150 species, and we didn't stray more than 600m from our accommodation! I'd call that a good result!"

Drosera intermedia
Image courtesy of J. Crellin
http://www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=drosera_intermedia,1
Last night, Maria added "The BSBI Mayo recording week continues apace, a small group enjoyed getting out on lovely intact bog, at Knockmoyle Nature Reserve near Bellacorrick, nice things seen included the rare oceanic aquatic Eriocaulon aquaticum, and all three Drosera species".

Let's hope that Maria and the team (I think 35 botanists have signed up for the Recording Week!) get lots more good records for Atlas 2020. And that the weather is kind to them!

You can follow Maria's daily bulletins from Mayo on the BSBI Ireland Facebook page here. You don't need a Facebook account to take a look at the page, although you can only leave a comment if you do have a Facebook account.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Botanising on Shetland 1: Shetland Mouse-ear

Good to hear from BSBI President Ian Denholm who has flown up to the northernmost limit of BSBI's geographical range in pursuit of wild flowers. Ian says:

Shetland Mouse-ear
Image: I. Denholm
"A BSBI team led by Scottish Officer JimMcIntosh and Paul Harvey from the Shetland Biological Records Centre has assembled on Unst, the northernmost of the Shetland Islands, for a week of plant recording. 

"While awaiting the arrival of others, a small group visited the spectacular bare serpentine rock at the Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve in search of rare plants including the Shetland Mouse-ear, aka Edmonston's Chickweed Cerastium nigrescens var. nigrescens, known from nowhere else in the world (an endemic).

"This proved to be in good quantity and in perfect flower. Over the week, the team, which also includes our Hon Gen Sec and Eyebright guru Chris Metherell, and two other trustees – Lynne Farrell and Mick Crawley – will be recording at selected locations on Unst and its neighbouring island, Fetlar".

Thanks Ian! You can see the single red dot on this distribution map which shows where the plant is recorded but you will have to zoom in and up. It really is in only one square and nowhere else in the world! 

Interpretation panel on Unst
Image: I. Denholm



Friday, 24 July 2015

Botanising in Moray 3: Dwarf Eelgrass and Beaked Tasselweed

Moray VC95, Wild Flower Society meeting Mon 13th – Thurs 16th July 2015. Report by Dawn Nelson.
Thursday 16th July 2015.

Spring Vetch
Image: D. Nelson
"For our last day we met up at Findhorn Dunes and set off to explore. 

We were barely 30 paces from the cars when Ian drew our attention to a profusion of Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue). There must have been over 50, most with fertile blades 

Small flowering treasures included Hypochaeris glabra (Smooth Cat’s-ear) and Vicia lathyroides (Spring Vetch). 

Scots Lovage
Image: D. Nelson
Then we were shown foliage of established plants of Clematis tangutica (Orange-peel Clematis), Ligustrum scoticum (Scots Lovage) was also admired. Heading westward we found Vulpia fasciculata (Dune Fescue) and the intergeneric hybrid X Festuca hubbardii (Red Fescue x Dune Fescue), both of which were enthusiastically examined. 

The airborne fragrance of Rosa rubiginosa (Sweet Briar) caught our attention and not far away we found Astragalus danicus (Purple Milk-vetch) sadly past flowering, although the fluffy fruits were looking good.

Exploring around the village and harbour area we found Descurainia sophia (Flixweed), some escaped Kniphofia x praecox (Greater Red-hot-poker) showing its exserted stamens and Malva neglecta (Dwarf Mallow). 

Purple Milk-vetch
Image: D. Nelson
At the top of a slipway we got down on our hands and knees to examine Trifolium suffocatum (Suffocated Clover) and Trifolium ornithopodiodes (Fenugreek). 

As we headed back to the cars, we ticked off a few more goodies including Geranium pusillum (Small-flowered Crane’s-bill) Crassula tillaea (Mossy Stonecrop) and Teesdalia nudicaulis (Shepherd’s Cress).

Findhorn Bay beckoned so off we went. Here we saw a typical salt marsh selection of plants including Centaurea littorale (Seaside Centaury), Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge) and Blysmus rufus (Saltmarsh Flat-sedge) plus a well-known location for the rare RR Euphrasia foulaensis (Foula Eyebright). 

Foula Eyebright
Image: D. Nelson
Ruppia maritima (Beaked Tassleweed) was found in the wetter places but the tide was too high to get to the RR Zostera noltei (Dwarf Eelgrass) however we came back later and went out onto the mud flats to see it. 

In the meanwhile we went to our last location of the trip - Burghead Beach from where Mertensia maritima (Oysterplant) has been recorded and was seen here by Ian last year. 

This is another of the RR plants I have wanted to see for a long time, it is on the Red List, has not been recorded in England since 1995 and is classified as Near Threatened in Great Britain. 

But sadly, despite an extensive search, our luck wasn’t in today. 

Examining Festuca x hubbardii
Image: D. Nelson
However we had an enjoyable walk along the shore and found a few nice aliens in and around the community garden such as Artemisia verlotiorum (Chinese Mugwort) and Anisantha diandra (Great Brome).

So two plants I have wanted to see it for some years now, were not accommodating - but that’s another good excuse to come back to this wonderful area at a different time of year. 

I honestly find it hard to believe that this is not regarded as one of the honeypot areas for botanising. I added 43 new species to my life list.  


Dwarf Eelgrass
Image: D. Nelson
It was a great three and a half day meeting, with an exceptionally good leader; it was really enjoyable exploring such a selection of plant rich habitats, as well as being in the company like-minded folk. Even the weather was good".

Many thanks to Dawn for this report - let's hope she gets to see Oysterplant Mertensia maritima at some point! 

If you don't know what this rare and photogenic plant looks like, click here to see some pix of a right royal Oysterplant that BSBI members were privileged to see a few years ago.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist.

Bantry Bay shoreline from Ardnagashel
Image: S. Maskey
A lovely surprise this week: we were contacted by Madeline Hutchins, great great grand-niece of pioneering Irish botanist Ellen Hutchins. This is what Madeline had to say: 

"I thought that BSBI members would like to know about the events happening in Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland, during Heritage Week this August (23rd to 30th) to celebrate that life and work of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) Ireland's First Woman Botanist, who worked mostly with algae/seaweed, bryophytes and lichens. 


Bantry Bay, Co. Cork.
Image: S. Maskey
"Donal Synnott, ex Glasnevin, is giving a talk, What the Eye Can See, about Ellen's botanical achievements, and there are a series of walks, In the Footsteps of Ellen, covering seashore, woodland and mountain, and a boat trip, all with botanists, to explore the areas in which Ellen collected plants. 

"There is a day focused on her home territory of Ballylickey and Ardnagashel, and a Pop Up exhibition of books and letters of hers, and including one of her botanical dictionaries, which will appear at various locations during the week.

"A small exhibition in the Bantry Library will tell her story through words and pictures, and at Bantry House there will be an art exhibition of her watercolours of seaweeds (prints of some of those held at Kew Gardens); this being the first time they will have been exhibited in Ireland.

Seaweed specimen collected by Ellen,
stored at Trinity College Dublin TCD
Image courtesy of The Herbarium,
Botany Dept., Trinity College Dublin.
"A plaque will be unveiled on the wall of the churchyard of Bantry old church where Ellen is buried, at present with no stone. This is one of the big blue plaques commemorating Irish scientists. 

"A smaller stone will be placed on the garden wall of Ballylickey House to mark her birthplace and home.

"I am giving a talk about her life and work, and including new material found in recently discovered letters from her to her brothers, and to James Mackay.

"The Bantry Historical Society, the Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve (NPWS) and the Hutchins family have worked together to present the programme, with funding from the Heritage Council, Cork County Council, NPWS, Bantry Bay Port Company, and Bantry Development and Tourism Association, and support from many local organisations and businesses.

"The events' dates and times are all listed on www.ellenhutchins.com and the Heritage Week site www.heritageweek.ie

One of Ellen's watercolours of seaweeds
Image: S. Maskey
"There will also be a little piece about Ellen and the discovery of some of her specimens in Trinity College Dublin's herbarium on RTE radio's Sunday Miscellany some time soon".

Many thanks to Madeline for telling us about these celebrations for the life and work of Ireland's "first female botanist" Ellen Hutchins. 

I hope some of our Irish members will be able to make it along - if you do, please take some photos to share here!

Stop press: Ace Irish botanist and bryologist Rory Hodd tells me that he and the amazing Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, Emeritus Senior Lecturer in Botany at the University of Galway, are two of the botanists leading guided walks In the Footsteps of Ellen! He also acknowledges the huge effort that Clare from Glengarriff NR has put in behind the scenes to make this event a success. Clare is also the new County Recorder for West Cork VC H3.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Botanising in Moray 2: some more rarities

Moray VC95, Wild Flower Society meeting Mon 13th – Thurs 16th July 2015. Report by Dawn Nelson. Part 2.

Wednesday 15th July 2015.

Small Cranberry
Image: D. Nelson 
Very different habitats were visited today; first off was a bog beside a small loch at Dava Moor. I didn’t have wellies so had to keep moving to prevent myself sinking and letting the water over top my boots. 

RR Vaccinium microcarpum (Small Cranberry) was found in flower and fruit. Many sedges were admired, including Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge), C. limosa (Bog Sedge) and C. canescens (White Sedge), and the rare RR Urticularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) was examined. 

Stag's-horn Clubmoss
Image: D. Nelson
Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) was abundant in the layby and over the road we found RR Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) and counted the teeth on the leaf edges (mostly fewer than 15 on each side), Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry)with flowers and fruit, and Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi (Bearberry) with tiny hairs on the leaf edges.

Just up the road at Dava we stopped to tick off a handful of garden escapes including, Euphrasia cyparissias (Cyprus Spurge), Geranium x magnificum (Purple Crane’s-bill), Iris siberica (Siberian Iris) and a white flowered form of Sisyrinchium bermudiana (Blue Eyed-grass); we also saw Meum athamanticum (Spignel), a native, but probably an escape in this location.

Interrupted Clubmoss
Image: D. Nelson
Another short drive took us to Lochallan where RR Lycopodium annotinum, (Interrupted Clubmoss) was found in abundance and in the layby (again) we saw Viola x intersita (Common Dog-violet x Heath dog-violet) showing its sterility perfectly.

The next stop at Glenernie provided an abundance of both RR Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) with its wonderful clove-like fragrance and longer-than-wide, barely-lobed lip, and Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid) in a multitude of interesting colour forms. Pinguicula vulgaris (Common Butterwort), Persicaria vivipara (Alpine Bistort) and Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort) were also seen.

Heath Fragrant-orchid
Image: D. Nelson

Our last stop today was at Randolph’s Leap, a wonderful gorge formed by the River Findhorn. Yet another lay-by plant was seen too - Spirea chamaedryfolia (Elm-leaved Spirea). 

Along the footpath we found several self-sown seedlings of alien conifers. As is often the case in these scenic spots, many exotic trees had been planted by the Victorians. Several seedlings of Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea (Copper Beech) were also noted and County Recorder Ian Green, leading the meeting, showed us Laburnum alpinum (Scots Laburnum) with its shiny trifoliate leaves and winged fruit. 

Interesting natives included Circaea intermedia (Upland Enchanter’s-nightshade), in the absence of both parents, which is not unusual as it is regarded as a glacial relic. Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) more Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen) and some Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat) were also seen. 

Leaves of Intermediate Wintergreen
Image: D, Nelson
At the confluence of the rivers Findhorn and Divie two rather special plants were noted - Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting) and the endemic Hieracium chloranthum (Green-flowered Hawkweed). The latter is very distinctive with greenish-yellow flowers and is mentioned from here in the ‘Flora of Moray, Nairn & East Inverness’ by Mary McCallum Webster, 1978. 

Ed.: Thanks Dawn. Third and final part of Dawn's report follows on Friday - tomorrow we hope to tell you about a pioneer female botanist from Ireland - so keep watching this space!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Botanising in Moray 1: Wintergreens and Coralroot Orchid

Botanising in Culbin Forest
Image: D. Nelson 
BSBI member Dawn Nelson has recently returned from a meeting of the Wildflower Society (WFS) in northern Scotland, and she took to social media to share images of some of the amazing plants she saw. 

I always follow Dawn's botanical peregrinations with interest - she won our Star Recorder prize in this year's New Year Plant Hunt and really goes the extra mile to see and record nice plants -  so I'm delighted that she agreed to share a report on her trip with News & Views readers. Here's Part 1:

Moray VC95, Wild Flower Society meeting Mon 13th – Thurs 16th July 2015. Report by Dawn Nelson.

Monday evening 13th July 2015

I am just back from one of the most amazing wild flower trips I have ever been on. This was led by Ian Green, County Recorder for VC95, he knows his patch really well and was enthusiastic and diligent in sharing it with the 11 WFS members who attended.

One-flowered Wintergreen
Image: D. Nelson
The first foray on Monday evening was to Culbin Forest an extensive vegetated sand dune area that was planted up by the Forestry Commission after WW2. 

It is a treasure trove for Wintergreens and other delights. Pyrola minor (Common Wintergreen) and Goodyera repens (Creeping Lady’s-tresses) were the first plants of interest we found. 

The real highlights however were Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen), very rare RRR Moneses uniflora (One-flowered Wintergreen) and Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade) all, especially the first two, in vast quantities that simply took our breath away. 

Lesser Twayblade
Image: D. Nelson
After much grovelling for photographs, we moved on to a pond and found Carex oederi (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge), Salix x multinervis (Grey Willow x Eared Willow) and Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort) in flower. 

Ian gallantly waded in to retrieve specimens of Urticularia australis (Bladderwort) and Elodea nuttallii (Nuttall’s Waterweed) for us to examine.
  
Driving back, some of the group stopped to take a close look at one of the many huge stands of Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed) that sadly seem only too common in the area.

Tuesday 14th July 2015

Botanists looking for Curved Sedge
Image: D. Nelson
We spent the morning at Spey Bay near Kingston setting off westward to explore Lein's old gravel quarry, an area that stopped being worked in 1978 and has, in the 46 years that nature has been reclaiming it, become a rich habitat for plants and animal life.

Tiny delights were drawn to our attention by Ian, including Filago minima (Small Cudweed), Radiola linoides (Allseed) and Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed); as well as a good selection of Eyebrights including the dark purple-flushed Euphrasia micrantha (Slender Eyebright) and other interesting plants, including the most north easterly mainland population of Jasione montana (Sheep’s-bit). 

Coralroot Orchid
Image: D. Nelson
Other good finds included Carex maritima (Curved Sedge) and Reseda alba (White Mignonette). 

However I think the highlight must have been the sheer quantity of flowering Corallorrhiza trifida (Coralroot Orchid) that we saw along the sides of the path through the woods.

Our second stop today was Crooked Wood where beside the layby we found Cotoneaster rehderi (Bullate Cotoneaster) and further into the wood plentiful Trientalis europaea (Chickweed Wintergreen), some still in flower.

We also saw an extensive patch of Linnaea borealis (Twinflower) which sadly had finished flowering but some spent flower stems were found. A red squirrel was also spotted.

Our third stop was Sunbank Park south of Lossiemouth where we found RRR Corynephorus canesens (Grey Hair-grass) new to most of us and a white flowered clump of it too. 

Curved Sedge with leaf of Silverweed
Image: D. Nelson
Cytisus striatus (Hairy-fruited Broom) and C. multiflorus (White Broom) were seen and diligently compared with the common C. scoparius (Broom). 

Vast quantities of Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort) were seen, which was a frequent encounter throughout the days to follow.

From here we set off back to our various places of accommodation, some going to see Rumex alpinus (Monks Rhubarb), others to see Gaultheria mucronata (Prickly Heath) a delicate alien and much prettier than the far more common G. shallon (Shallon).
 

Thanks Dawn, that's quite a list - and this is just the first part! Day 2 follows tomorrow. To sustain you until then, here is an image taken by Dawn of Serrated Wintergreen :


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Article in Watsonia prompts play at Edinburgh Fringe!

'The Rhum Plants': the cast
Image courtesy of P. Baarda. 
Playwright Phil Baarda has been in touch to tell us about his new play, a comedy called 'The Rhum Plants', which is going to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival and then touring. It is about arctic-alpines and is based on a paper in Watsonia, the predecessor to New Journal of Botany! Over to Phil:

"In the 1940s, the botanical world was rocked by the discovery of many rare plants on the island of Rum by Professor John Heslop-Harrison. The trouble was, this ambitious working class academic had been making far too many similar discoveries over the previous decade to be credible. 

"The botanical elite despatched John Raven – classical scholar and botanist of note – to Rum to investigate. They suspected the Prof had been planting out rare plants and passing them off as genuine discoveries.

"These historical facts are the starting point of a new comedy, 'The Rhum Plants', written by Inverness-based Phil Baarda, which is going to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival, and also on tour in September around the Highlands – including to the island of Rum itself, and to the Ardtornish estate - home of Hugh Raven, the son of the play’s hero John. 

'The Rhum Plants': John Raven
Image courtesy of P. Baarda
"The play has been heavily inspired by John Raven’s own report of the investigation – which was considered to be so controversial that it wasn’t released until after the death of not only Professor Heslop-Harrison, but following the death of his son. 

"The report was eventually published in 2004 and can be found in Preston, C. D., Watsonia, 25: 17-44 

"The play features four excellent up-and-coming Inverness actors and is being directed by Dave Smith (co-writer of many top notch plays including 'Whisky Kisses' - on last summer at the Pitlochry Festival theatre - 'Who Bares Wins', and 'Accidental Death of an Accordionist', to name only a few). 

'The Rhum Plants' is a tale about deception, greed, class, ambition and arrogance with some gratuitous lust and cross-dressing thrown in – featuring false woolly knitted beards and long-john onesies. 

"The Rhum Plants is on at Sweet Venues on the Grassmarket 6th-30th August at 15:30 each day (except Wed 19th and 26th August).  For more information please click here". 

You can follow the play’s journey and tour dates/venues through Facebook (www.facebook.com/MangonelTheatre) or via Twitter @MangonelTheatre  #TheRhumPlants