Saturday, 21 October 2017

Welcome back to BSBI Welsh Officer Paul Green

Paul gets up close and personal with an Allium
Image: I. Bonner
lt's all change in Wales!

After six years as BSBI's Welsh Officer, Polly Spencer-Vellacott is moving to Scotland with her family so she's giving up her role supporting Welsh botanists.

While this is sad news and we are all sorry to wave goodbye to Polly, there is a very silver lining to this particular cloud, as we welcome back Paul Green as Welsh Officer. 

He and Polly used to job-share the post and Paul was at the helm on his own while Polly was on maternity leave, so he knows the ropes. 

Polly with the BSBI's
dual-language banner
Image courtesy of
P. Spencer-Vellacott
Paul also wears several other hats - he is editor of Irish Botanical News and joint County Recorder for Co. Wexford. You may have read his 'Wild flowers of Wexford' blog or seen his photos on Twitter - he made some great finds during last January's New Year Plant Hunt - naturalised Fatsia japonica blooming in Glengary, Co. Wexford on New Year's Day! 

Oh and did I mention that he is a superb field botanist and botanical trainer?

I asked Paul how it felt to be taking up the reins in Wales again.

He said "It is a great honour to be back as the BSBI Welsh Officer. I very much enjoyed my last stint in the post and I'm looking forward to exploring Wales and meeting all the Welsh botanists again. This time I’m based in Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire, the extreme south-west corner of Wales. 

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Polly for her sterling work over the past 6 years as Welsh Officer, and wish her all the best with the move to Scotland".

Paul leads a field meeting in Co. Wexford in 2013
Image courtesy of P. Green
Hear hear! Polly tells me that once she has settled into her new home, she's looking forward to getting involved in Scottish botany (because she is, of course, going to be keeping up her BSBI membership) so Wales' loss is Scotland's gain. 

I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing Polly all the best and welcoming back Paul - we're very lucky to have two such amazing botanists in the BSBI fold. 

You can keep up with Polly's progress by following her on Twitter and you can see how Paul is getting on in his new role by following him wearing his Welsh Officer hat as well as his Wexford Recorder bonnet. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Scottish Annual Meeting 2017: a great programme

Wearing 3-D glasses to help with stonewort ID
at the 2016 Scottish Annual Meeting
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh has been in touch to tell us about what's on offer at this year's Scottish Annual Meeting, which will be held at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on Saturday 4th November. Over to Jim: 

"We have a great line-up of speakers at this year’s Scottish Annual Meeting, with Mike Scott giving a talk on Mountain Flowers, the title of his recent book; Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin on Monkeyflowers; Dr Aline Finger on Marsh Saxifrage and Roy Sexton on Plant monitoring & conservation with SWT Stirling.

Trees at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh -
just waiting for Matt & Max to ID them!
Image: I. Denholm
"We also have a great selection of mini-workshops – Introductions to Ferns, Pondweeds & Willows, with Heather McHaffie, Claudia Ferguson-Smyth, and Les Tucker respectively. Or if you fancy some fresh air – Conifer ID or Winter Deciduous Tree ID with Matt Parratt and Max Coleman, respectively. Or for something more cerebral, a discussion on Post-2020 BSBI projects with BSBI Scientific Officer Pete Stroh!

"The conference room will be stuffed full of interesting posters and exhibits (although there is always room for more) and we will have regular features such as the BSBI Photographic Competition, a pop-up bookshop from Summerfield Books and the ID Help Desk. 

"If you have already booked for this year's Scottish Annual Meeting – thank you very much! If you have yet to book, note the meeting is just two weeks tomorrow and the deadline for bookings is the 28th October - one week tomorrow. So if you plan to come, please book now by clicking here!"

Many thanks to Jim for telling us about what's on offer at this year's Scottish Annual Meeting. See you there?

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Second meeting of the Kerry BSBI group

Getting started
Image: Ger Scollard
You may remember that in August we featured a guest blogpost by Jessica Hamilton about the inaugural meeting of the Kerry BSBI group. Now she's back to tell us about the follow-up meeting. 

"Over to Jessica:

"The last time I was here, I was reporting on the success of BSBI Kerry’s first ever outing to Ross Castle, Killarney. 

Clouds clearing to reveal more of the
Sliabh Mish mountains
Image: J. Hamilton
"This time I’m reflecting on our second outing that took us to Blennerville and out alongside the Canal which eventually enters scenic Tralee Bay.

"Led by Therese and myself, as with our previous outings, we had botanists of all levels and it was great to be faced with so many familiar faces as well as lots of newcomers and some of my fellow classmates from the IT Tralee.

"This time our foray started opposite Blennerville windmill. 

"From there we then planned to head down across the road and alongside the canal. 

Sea Mayweed
Image: J. Hamilton
"Before we did this, as the carpark fell in our first monad, we decided to start right there.

"Many a botanist knows how interesting car parks can be in terms of what botanical surprises they can throw up. 

"Nothing too alarming came up for us, lots of typical common species and it gave a people to have a go keying out a very common Cerastium fontanum (common mouse ear).

Marsh Cudweed
Image: J. Hamilton
"As the car park backed onto a nearby salt marsh, we quickly crossed off a few salt marsh species such as Plantago maritima (Sea plantain), Aster tripolium (Sea aster) and so on.

"After leaving the car park we set along the canal when the clouds cleared to reveal hints of blue sky. 

"Quickly we came across a waste-ground type patch and in quick succession we were soon crossing off lots of species. 

Scarlet Pimpernel
Image: J. Hamilton
"Nothing too rare or overly exciting but we got lots of common stuff which in the grand scheme of things are just as important as the rare things.

"The fact that we saw lots of common things such as different species of thistle and vetch growing side by side gave people a chance to see many species of the same family growing side by side.

"They were able to note their differences and ID features that they could apply again in the future. 

"One nice plant which I for one don’t come across too often was Gnaphalium uliginosum (Marsh cudweed).

Wild Carrot seedhead
Image: J. Hamilton

"The common Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel) was a hit as always with everyone, especially as the day was brightening and the flowers were starting to open. 

"Geranium dissectum (Cut-leaved crane’s-bill), another favourite of mine, was scrambling up amongst grasses. The twisted seed heads of Daucus carota (Wild carrot) stood out on top of a grassy mound nearby.

"A nice moment to see was when people looked through their hand lenses and noticed the little points on the leaflets of Medicago lupulina (Black medick). 

Black Medick
Image: J. Hamilton
"Beside the waste ground/grassy area were swathes of Bolboschoenus maritimus (Sea Club-rush).

"As we walked further along canal we encountered lots of coastal species such as Scurvy grass, Thrift, Sea Beet & a few gone over examples of sea milkwort. 

"We also encountered the last of the species of plantains (Plantago spp.) that we expected to see on the day giving us all four:
P. lanceolata, major, maritima and coronopus.

Teasels by Tralee Bay
Image: J. Hamilton 
"Across the canal on the wall of a dwelling I could see flecks of purple, and thanks to Kilian’s binoculars we were able to add another two species to the list: Cymbalaria muralis (Ivy-Leaved toadflax) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s tongue fern).

"A break was taken to refuel and chat, this time giving grand views of Tralee Bay and the Sliabh Mish mountains with towering examples of gone over teasel adding some nice perspective to our lunchtime views. 

Keying a speedwell
Image: J. Hamilton
"In this area we ticked off more species including Coronopus didymus (Lesser Swine-cress) with its unmistakable odour when crushed.

"We then kept strolling and left the coastal habitats behind us in favour of roadside and hedgerows hoping the change in habitats would allow us to tick off a few more species, which it surely did. 

"Lots of common species popped up such as Stachys sylvatica (Hedge woundwort), Sonchus arvensis (Perennial sow-thistle) and Arctium minus (Lesser Burdock).

Perennial sow-thistle
Image: J. Hamilton
"One species however it took a while for us to find was the normally quite plentiful Geranium robertianum (Herb-Robert) but after a while we found one plant looking less than happy on top of a stone wall. 

"These stone walls also yielded three more ferns Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair spleenwort), Asplenium ruta-muraria (Wall rue) and Polypodium vulgare (Common Polypody). 

"Nearby at a field gate entrance I got to practice keying out a fumitory which yielded Fumaria bastardii (Tall ramping fumitory).

Investigating a vetch
Image: J. Hamilton
"All in all, we covered two monads and recorded over 100 species.

  • You can follow our antics on the official BSBI Kerry Facebook page here or if you’re a Twitter user here.
  • If you are in the Kerry locality and would like to get involved and come out with us on future outings, send an email to and I’ll add you to the mailing list".
Many thanks to Jessica for this account and for providing so many great photos - it sounds as though the Kerry BSBI group is going from strength to strength! We'll keep you posted on their progress on these pages.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Flora of Sussex

A new Flora of Sussex is due to be published in February 2018 but pre-publication offers are now available. BSBI members will have spotted a flyer tucked inside their copy of BSBI News no. 136 (mailed out a few weeks ago) allowing them to order the Flora direct from the publishers for the special price of £35. For non-members, why not check out Summerfield Books who are offering the book for £39.

The new Flora has been compiled by the Sussex Botanical Recording Society to update, expand and revise the Sussex Plant Atlas published in 1980. It is the first major account of the county's flora since Wolley-Dod's work of 1937. 

Around 2,750 taxa are described, many accompanied by tetrad-based maps showing their distribution within the county. The species accounts are prefaced by detailed introductory chapters on geology and soils, habitats and vegetation, management and conservation, changes in the flora and past botanical activity in the county in order to provide an ecological and historical context. The text is fully illustrated throughout with photographs of characteristic Sussex plants and habitats. 

Friday, 29 September 2017

BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting 2017: bookings have opened

Exhibition Meeting 2015, Natural History Museum
Image: Waheed Arshad
Bookings opened on Tuesday for this year's BSBI Exhibition Meeting which will be held at the Natural History Museum, London on Saturday 25th November and, for those of us on the Organising Committee (that's me, Kylie and Jodey), our phones haven't stopped pinging! Lots of you are booking your tickets, requesting spaces on the behind-the-scenes tours of the Herbarium, enquiring about how to reserve exhibitor space, speakers are telling us what will be in their Powerpoints... it's all go here at BSBI Towers!

If you haven't been to a BSBI Exhibition Meeting before, please head over to this page where you can see images from previous events, download Powerpoints and view some of the exhibits we've featured in recent years. Or take a look at some of our Exhibition Meeting blogposts here and here.

Kylie (on left) looks at Roger Horton's exhibit, 
Exhibition Meeting 2015.
Image: Waheed Arshad 
The event is very much open to everyone who is interested in the wild flowers of Britain and Ireland, whether you are a beginner or an expert, and you don't have to be a BSBI member to attend. 

But if you are thinking about joining, this is a great opportunity to check out what's on offer. And it's completely free to attend and to exhibit thanks to our lovely friends at the Natural History Museum who are providing the venue to us completely free of charge.

Among our speakers this year are: 
Andrew Branson, former editor of British Wildlife and soon to take over the editorship of BSBI's membership newsletter
Alex Mills from the Natural History Museum's 'Identification Trainers for the Future' programme; 
Mark Duffell from BSBI's Training and Education Committee will be talking about the many ways in which BSBI supports botanical training at all skill levels. 

Field meeting in Kerry this year
Image: Jessica Hamilton
BSBI staff and officers who will be speaking include Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin who will be talking about the BSBI Summer Meeting in Flintshire, Irish Officer Maria Long who will update us on how she is helping to build and support BSBI's botanical network in Ireland; and our Head of Science Kevin Walker will be talking about BSBI's Threatened Plants Project (TPP) and the new publication from the BSBI Science Team, Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland, which analyses the results of the TPP. 

George Garnett (on left) attends his first plant
science lecture at Univ Reading
Image: Jonathan Mitchley
Finally we have two speakers at opposite ends of the age and experience spectrum: Margaret Bradshaw, who has been a BSBI member since 1951, will be talking to us about the flora of Upper Teesdale and a new project to help conserve it; and Guernsey botanist George Garnett, in the first year of an undergraduate degree at University of Reading, will talk about 'Growing the Next Generation of Botanists'.

We'll keep you posted in coming weeks about the exhibits you can look forward to but for now, head over to the Exhibition Meeting webpage and book your space so that Kylie, Jodey and I can hear that satisfying pinging sound on our phones - and look forward to catching up with you in November! 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

New Species Accounts from BSBI Science Team

Bur Medick
Image: Pete Stroh
Five new Species Accounts have just been made available courtesy of BSBI Scientific Officer Pete Stroh, bringing the grand total to 84.

Species covered in this latest batch are: Lesser Calamint Clinopodium calamintha, Leafless Hawk's-beard Crepis praemorsa, Yellow Vetchling Lathyrus aphaca, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus angustissimus and Bur Medick Medicago minima

Each Species Account considers: identification; habitat; biogeography; ecology; as well as threats to, and suitable management for, that species. 

Illustrated by excellent colour images (you can see an example on the right) and featuring a BSBI distribution map, each Species Account is free to download from this page. We hope that you enjoy them and find them useful.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland

David with New Atlas co-authors Chris & Trevor,
'Pearman Day' at RBG Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
We are delighted to alert you to a new BSBI publication from David Pearman called The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland. The book is due out in November 2017 but BSBI members can benefit from a members-only pre-publication offer and order the book now at a reduced price.

For anybody new to British and Irish botany, David was a co-author (along with Chris Preston and Trevor Dines) of the ground-breaking New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora (2002) and also a co-author (along with Clive Stace and Chris Preston) of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles (2015). BSBI members will also know David well as our President from 1995 to 1998, a stalwart of BSBI's Records and Research Committee, the man who set up BSBI's Science Team (formerly the Plant Unit)... In fact David's contributions to British and Irish botany are so many and so various that in 2014 BSBI held a Celebratory Pearman Day at RBG Kew to honour the man himself (which caused him great embarrassment as he is also extremely modest!) 

David in the field with a very large Hogweed
Image courtesy of D. Pearman
I asked David to tell us a little about The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland:

LM: So David, how did the idea for this book come about?

DP: When we researched the New Atlas, one of my jobs was to try to find out when each plant alien to Britain and Ireland had first been found. That was an entirely new project, but after that I realised that the only corresponding works on the discovery of our native flora were 100 years or more ago, and could well be updated. The advent of the availability of old works on the internet has been of major assistance, especially for one living away from the major museums and libraries. 

David (centre) & Chris receive the Engler Silver
Medal from Sandy Knapp for the Hybrid Flora.
Image: L. Marsh 
LM: So you've been working on The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland since 2002?

DP: Yes, it has taken me nearly 14 years, and the help of dozens of friends, librarians and keepers of the major Herbaria and many others to compile this work.

LM: So, who first described our native plants? 

DP: This book attempts to answer that question, starting from almost the dawn of printing, with William Turner’s Libellus of 1538. Of course there were medieval herbals in the five centuries or more before Turner, and also there is a vast body of folk-lore, but Turner was the first to describe more than a handful and to do so in print. Thus printed sources are the cornerstone of this work, and the first date is given for each of the 1670 species or aggregates of all the indisputably natives and archaeophytes, including 40 or so species that some have argued as native in the last half-century. But this is supplemented by information from manuscripts and herbaria which enable the display of an earlier date, a date of first evidence, for just under half of that total. The names of the discoverers and the counties where each was first recorded are also given, where known.

David at 'Pearman Day'
Image: L. Marsh
LM: And how do you see people using The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland?

DP: Though the primary purpose of the book is to show the details of the discovery and recording of each species, it will also show the progress of discovery, leading to the somewhat surprising conclusion that most (+/- 85%) of our flora had been described by the 1720s, once the critical, non-lowland and doubtful natives have been omitted. Indeed, the main achievement of these last three centuries has been a consolidation of our knowledge.

LM: I gather the book will be 450 pages long and you've told us that it covers 1670 taxa. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the book before BSBI members head over to the members-only area of the website to take advantage of the pre-publication offer?

DP: The very extensive Appendices cover the key herbals and floras, the relevant journals, the important works on the history of botany, some of the national herbaria and have a major section on the botanists who actually discovered the plants.

The New Atlas team: David, Chris and Trevor.
BSBI Mapping Conference, RBG Kew 2012.
Image: L. Marsh
LM: Thank you David, for all your hard work on the book, for telling us more about it and for making it available to BSBI members at a special price which represents a saving of £6 per copy.

You can find out more about The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland by clicking on this link. If you are a BSBI member, you can then head straight to the members-only area of the website and order your copy. You'll need to have your password to hand to access the members-only area. If you've forgotten it, just email me with your membership number.

New publication from BSBI's
Science  Team (set up by David)
Image: P. Stroh
If you are not yet a BSBI member, why not check out this page? It lists all the benefits of BSBI membership and there's a secure payment option, making it very quick and easy for you to become a BSBI member and start getting involved.

As we told you yesterday, this really is the best time of year to join BSBI if you haven't already! As well as saving £6 on the cost of The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland, you can also save £5 on the cost of another new BSBI publication, Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland, and further savings can be made on the range of BSBI Handbooks. 

The membership subscription is still only £30 per year (with special reduced rates for some groups) and if you join us after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts in January and runs until the end of 2018. That gives you 15 months in which to enjoy three copies a year of our membership newsletter, online access to our scientific journal, preferential booking on our annual programme of field meetings and conferences, access to 100+ expert plant referees who will help you identify tricky plants... as well as special offers on a whole range of botanical books, not just the titles mentioned above. 

David with fellow authors Peter Marren &
Mike McCarthy, Pearman Day at RBG Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
By joining us you also become a highly valued member of the leading botanical society in Britain and Ireland which pioneers ground-breaking approaches to world-class research projects (to which you can also make a contribution, whatever your skill level) and supports the next generation of botanists via training and other study grants (for which you are eligible to apply). 

So what are you waiting for? Click here and become a BSBI member today! And if you're on Twitter, don't forget to tweet to @BSBIbotany using the hashtag #BSBImembers so we can follow you back and welcome you publicly into the fold!