Thursday, 31 August 2017

Report on the Inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference: Day One

GCC2017 group photo
Image: A. Lyons
Back in June, we featured a trailer for the forthcoming Grassland Conservation Conference, due to be held at Edge Hill University on 14th-15th August. Organiser Ashley Lyons is now back to tell us about the conference. Over to Ashley:

"The inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference took place at Edge Hill University earlier this month and was attended by a group of around 50 academics, conservation practitioners and farmers. Spread over two days, the conference provided an excellent forum for the discussion of research and practical conservation. The first day followed a traditional conference format with a series of talks, a poster session and an excellent conference meal.

Richard Jefferson, Senior Grassland Specialist of Natural England (on left) opened proceedings with the Keynote talk ‘Evidence to advice: How researcher-practitioner partnerships can support successful grassland conservation’. Richard’s talk was particularly apt as the aim of the conference was to promote collaboration and dissemination of knowledge between researchers and practitioners. 

This was followed by a varied and interesting range of talks which included talks on organisms associated with grasslands from three separate Kingdoms!

The first talk in the oral sessions came from the Wildlife Trust’s Mark Champion who discussed the development of grasslands on post-industrial sites, a very interesting talk that demonstrated the biodiversity value of sites not traditionally associated with nature.

Next up was Carly Stevens of Lancaster University talking about their research into fifty years of vegetation change in the Sheffield region. Carly highlighted the negative impact that bracken has had on plant diversity in some places.

Edge Hill University’s Elizabeth Sullivan followed with her research into genetic diversity and connectivity in hay meadow vegetation, a subject of increasing importance to conservation in an increasingly fragmented landscape.

Carol Edmondson provided the first of several talks on grassland associated invertebrates with her work on responses of bumblebees to hay meadow restoration. If you restore a meadow bumblebees will follow.

Bill Grayson, the founder of the excellent Morecambe Bay Conservation Grazing Company provided a fascinating insight into grazing selectivity of cattle in a conservation grazing system. Bill discussed the nutrient content of the vegetation in the semi-natural grasslands his cattle graze, demonstrating that high botanical diversity is good for livestock health.

Bill’s talk was followed by several talks on grazing impacts in the uplands with Sam Turner examining bryophyte diversity under cattle grazing and no grazing, Margaret Bradshaw (above right) discussing over grazing and under grazing effects on rare plants in upper Teesdale, and yours truly (Ashley Lyons) examining spider community responses to contrasting grazing management in upland calcareous grasslands.

Rebecca Whitla continued the invertebrate theme with her work on genotypic variation in Marsh Fritillary butterflies before Natural England’s Sean Cooch (on left) introduced the third Kingdom of the day with his talk on the conservation status of England’s grassland fungi.

Martin Allen presented his captivating idea of introducing an ancient grassland inventory akin to the one used for ancient woodland. This talk stimulated much discussion, so watch this space for Martin’s inventory…

Stephen Peel then talked about the 98% of grassland in the UK which is not designated in some way and asked how we can meet international biodiversity commitments by incorporating them.

Stephen Peel and Melanie Stone
Image: A. Lyons
The talks were rounded off by Edge Hill’s Paul Ashton (who also sits on BSBI's Training & Education Committee); Paul explored the development of grasslands, their current status and asked what the pressing questions about grasslands are going into the future.

Next up was the George Stapledon Poster Session which was very generously sponsored by the Sir George Stapledon Memorial Trust with a grant and poster prize. The session featured 12 posters on a range of grassland related topics. The best poster prize was won by Melanie Stone for her excellent poster titled ‘Investigating community change on limestone grassland under different rainfall regimes’.

The first day of the conference was rounded off with an excellent conference meal which featured generous servings of wine and an epic cheese board!"

The poster session
Image: A. Lyons
The grassland conservation conference was developed by a group of grassland researchers from Edge Hill University after attending and presenting at a number of international conferences around the world. Conference organiser Ashley Lyons said “Each conference we attended shoehorned us in to some vaguely related topic. We felt that grassland conservation research deserved a stronger platform and a home of its own and felt there was no better way to do this than by developing our own conference. We are also aware that the best way to ensure grassland conservation is successful is through collaboration of researchers, conservation practitioners, farmers and policy makers. With this in mind, the aims of the Grassland Conservation Conference were to provide a platform for dissemination of knowledge and collaboration among each of those groups. We hope that this inaugural conference will be the first step toward strengthening partnerships to ultimately improve grassland conservation.”

If you would like further information about the Grassland Conservation Conference please visit 

Many thanks to Ashley for this report - she'll be back next week to tell us about the field trips from Day Two of the conference.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Rare plant found in Hampshire!

Frond of Equisetum telmateia (centre)
growing amongst the hybrid, for comparison
Image: M. Rand
It's always a pleasure to hear from Martin Rand, County Recorder for Hampshire, but it's especially nice when he shares details of a rare plant found in the county! Over to Martin:

"It's not every day one can clock up the third site in the world for a rare plant, but on 12th July local botanist and ecologist Neil Sanderson did just that. 

"Bowman's Horsetail (Equisetum x bowmanii) was first found and described by the then County Recorder, Paul Bowman, in 1986 near Minstead in the northern New Forest. 

"From his original spot it has been mapped over about two kilometres aligned along the A337 towards Cadnam. 

E. x bowmanii
Image: M. Rand
"Then in 2006 it was found in the Scottish Highlands, in an area where one of its parents is not known. The new site is only about 1.5 kilometres from the original one, but on a first check seems to be distinct from it, with no intervening populations.

"Bowman's Horsetail is a hybrid between Giant Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia) and Wood Horsetail (E. sylvaticum). It is intermediate in size between the two and has a less robust, rather greener stem than E. telmateia and the branches shorten towards the top, unlike E. telmateia

E. x bowmanii
Image: M. Rand
"The hybrid has branched branches like E. sylvaticum, but the branching is less profuse and delicate. The asymmetric tops to the fronds, where the top few whorls appear to be sidling off, are characteristic of the hybrid but not of E. sylvaticum

"Although this hybrid is likely to be overlooked, it is probably genuinely rare. On the world stage, the geographical ranges of the parent species do not overlap much. Ecologically they tend to be separated, too, having rather different requirements.

"All images on this page were taken at the new Hampshire site on 27th August 2017."

Thanks Martin!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Poland & Clement Vegetative Key: download it now!

Jim McIntosh, BSBI Scottish Officer and Editor of BSBI eNews, has been in touch with some wonderful news for all fans of Poland & Clement's Vegetative Key to the British Flora.

Over to Jim:

"The Vegetative Key to the British Flora Kindle eBook is FREE to buy today and tomorrow (29 & 30 August) only on Amazon thanks to John Poland's kind offer mentioned in the August issue of BSBI eNews.

"You can download the Kindle version for free to use on your smartphone and / or your computer.

"You will need to install the Kindle app (which is also free) on your device(s) first. Then search for The Vegetative Key to the British Flora on Amazon. The Kindle Price in the top right box should be £0.00. Ignore the Kindle unlimited "Read for £0.00" box and click the box with the shopping cart and "Buy now" immediately below. (See screenshot below).

Watch out for the September issue of BSBI eNews at the end of this week! You'll be able to download it (and all the back copies) free of charge from the BSBI Publications page here.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Watch out for subspecies of Sparganium erectum

Sparganium erectum subsp.
microcarpum on the Ripon Canal
Image: M. Wilcox
Yorkshire botanist Mike Wilcox has been in touch to suggest that we keep an eye open for subspecies of Branched Bur-reed.

He thinks that "The subspecies in Branched Bur-reed Sparganium erectum are likely to be under-recorded. There may be some distributional differences but without more detailed studies this is difficult to assess. Later in the season when there are fewer plants around to record, these plants should be in fruit. They can be peeled off and placed in small paper packets with the details on. Let’s get collecting and Sparganium spotting for Atlas2020!"

To help you separate the subspecies of Sparganium erectum, download our helpful crib sheet on the BSBI Identification page here. It features drawings of the four subspecies by BSBI aquatics expert Richard Lansdown. 

If you find any interesting fruits, you can email Mike at and post the fruits as directed above to: M. Wilcox, 43 Roundwood Glen, Greengates, Bradford, BD10 0HW.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Bob Ellis retires as BSBI Project Officer

Pete (in shorts), Bob (in hat) & NFG members 
It's the end of an era!

Over to BSBI Scientific Officer Pete Stroh to tell us why:

"I’m sure many of you know Bob Ellis as sage botanist, County Recorder for East Norfolk and all-round top bloke, but you might not be aware that he recently retired from his ‘day job’ as BSBI's Project Officer

Bob at the helm
This was a role that involved a multitude of tasks, including supporting recorders with MapMate and managing major projects such as:

Change in the British Flora 1987-2004 (Braithwaite, Ellis & Preston, 2007), and 

The Threatened Plants Project, due to be published next month as Threatened Plants in Britain & Ireland." 

[Ed.: more about this next month, including an exclusive interview with Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI Head of Science and lead author on Threatened Plants in Britain & Ireland.]

Bob and his Kestrel
Back to Pete: "Thanks to past, present and future Presidents of the Society, BSBI staff and members of the Norfolk Flora Group (NFG), I was able to surprise Bob yesterday, after an NFG meeting for Atlas 2020 recording, with his retirement present – a clay-moulded, hand-painted model by Karen Fawcett of a male Kestrel, complete with pewter talons and mouse (!).

"Not only is Bob a brilliant botanist, but more importantly he is one of the nicest people I know, and although we’ll miss him, as Bob’s still a County Recorder, fortunately we’ll still see him at regular events, and I continue to have an excuse to travel occasionally to Norfolk and botanise with him and his fellow expert NFG members. 

"Did I mention they bring along cake and visit a local pub after meetings? That’s my kind of botany group!"

Mine too Pete and many thanks for this note about Bob. It's been a pleasure to work with him as Secretary of BSBI's Recording & Research Committee, as well as in all his other roles. I'm sure you will all join me and Pete in wishing Bob all the very best in his retirement, but we look forward to continuing to hear from him in his role as County Recorder for East Norfolk.

Pete gives Bob his retirement present

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

An adventure in Urban Plant Hunting - in Galway

Ooh this is going to be fun: a free urban flora walk in Galway this Saturday 26th August with some very friendly and knowledgeable botanists who can't wait to show you how to identify wild flowers! 

Over to Phoebe O'Brien to tell us more: 

"Looking out at the rain in Galway I’m both excited and nervous about leading the BSBI Galway urban flora walk sponsored by the Heritage Council. This is a new initiative for BSBI Ireland and hopefully will introduce the society’s work to a new group of people. 

"The event is very much aimed at beginners and is free, part of the National Heritage Week celebrating the relationship between people and nature. It is also part of the European Heritage Days 2017. 

"I’m aiming to show people which plants are growing around them in an urban setting. I love BSBI events in the field and discovering rarities with other members, and I’m hoping the people I meet next Saturday will eventually sign up and head out on other BSBI events. We are keeping this event short and sweet. It will be less than 2 km on flat pavements around the river Corrib and canals. 

"We are starting at a reasonable 12.00 noon and plan to drop into a pub for a quick break and for getting out the books if it’s pouring. It may be the first time participants have used a hand lens or opened a Flora (without pictures!). 

"The plants we’ll cover will be fairly familiar, but we’ll look at them in greater detail so that we can start to recognise the features which crop up over and over again when trying to key out a new plant. Well that’s my hope anyway!

"I am saying ‘we’ here because I’m thrilled to tell you that Eugene Lambe, once a lecturer in botany at Galway University, is returning to share his knowledge with us. Eugene is better known these days as a traditional Irish musician who plays and makes uilleann pipes. I am fascinated to get out and about with him. We are joined by ecology student Ciaran Bruton who is currently focusing on communities and biodiversity.

"You’ll never know what you might find in a city, or whether someone has tidied away the plants you saw yesterday. I’m hoping to share my passion with beginners and show them how to identify at least 40 common Irish wild flowers. 

"I will share my finds with News & Views readers in a follow up blogpost. In the meantime, here's a photo (on the right) of me and Daniel Kelly (BSBI member and generally amazing botanist) exploring urban flora in New York".

If you would like to join Phoebe, Eugene and Ciaran on their exploration of Galway's urban flora on Saturday, please click here to register on-line. They will be setting off from Galway Cathedral at noon and you'll be able to follow their progress on Twitter under the hashtag #BSBIGalwayWalk

We acknowledge the support of the Heritage Council for very kindly funding this event as part of Heritage Week 2017.

Monday, 21 August 2017

New Journal of Botany 7.1 is published!

Hedera x sepulcralis, one of the new ivy hybrids
 described in New Journal of Botany
Image: R. Marshall/RHS
Apologies that the latest issue of New Journal of Botany, BSBI's scientific journal, has been so delayed but it's on-line now and we hope you'll agree that it was worth waiting for!

The latest issue opens with a paper by Rosalyn Marshall, Hugh McAllister and James Armitage describing three new infrageneric hybrids in the genus Hedera (Ivy). 

The authors consider material from the UK, Spain and the USA; the distinguishing features of the three newly named hybrids are discussed and there is a key allowing identification of the two hybrids known to have arisen in the UK. 

This paper comes hot on the heels of a new monograph by Rosalyn and Hugh, published by the Royal Horticultural Society, which covers the surprisingly colourful diversity of ivy, from the 12 species to around 200 of the most widely grown cultivars, which are illustrated and fully described in the monograph. It also covers the benefits of ivy for wildlife, uses in folklore and the decorative arts as well as the botany, ecology and evolutionary history of the genus. There is a checklist of 2000+ ivy cultivars and scientific names, alongside advice on cultivation and propagation. You can order the monograph here.  

Trifolium bocconei
One of the rare annual plants
discussed in David Pearman's
paper on plants on the
Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall
Image: D. Pearman
Also in this issue of New Journal of Botany you will find a paper by David Pearman on the population dynamics of rare annual plants on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall from 2009 to 2016.

Paul Ashton et al. looks at regional stability versus fine scale changes in community composition of mesotrophic grasslands over a 25 year period, while Clive Stace offers us new combinations in six genera of the British flora and Pete Stroh, BSBI Scientific Officer, describes a putative new native taxon for Britain. And no, I'm not going to spoil the surprise by telling you what it is!

But New Journal of Botany has always looked beyond British and Irish shores, and in this issue we are also delighted to publish a paper by Sanna Olander and Torbjorn Tyler on Erigeron acris in Fennoscandia, while Declan Quigley et al. document first records of Prickly Palm Acrocomia spp. from Irish and northwest European waters.

If you are a BSBI member, you can access New Journal of Botany on-line by going to the members-only area and following the links. You'll need to have your password to hand and enter it when prompted - email me if you've forgotten it and don't forget to let me know your membership number.

If you're not a member - I'm really sorry but access to New Journal of Botany is restricted to BSBI members (and some institutional subscribers who pay hundreds of pounds a year!) If you want to read the journal, your best bet is to join BSBI and then you will have on-line access to not only the latest issue but all back issues since 2011, when the journal was launched. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

BSBI training grants helping botanists in 2017: Part Three

Spittal of Glenshee
Image: T. Jones
Following on from Richard's report on how a BSBI training grant helped him get to grips with grasses, sedges and rushes, we now have Tomos' report on how his BSBI training grant enabled him to study orchids in Scotland.

Over to Tomos:

“I have a particular interest in the Orchidaceae, their diversity and intricate beauty, and enjoy caring for the collection of tropical and sub-tropical orchids at Treborth Botanic Garden. This gave me the opportunity to travel to Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden in southern China, as an intern focusing on the conservation of orchids used in traditional Chinese medicine, particularly Dendrobium species. 

Dactylorhiza maculata
Image: T. Jones
"On arriving home, I realised how unfamiliar I was with our native orchids, and so I have focused on finding and identifying these during the last two seasons. Here’s my blogpost about my time finding orchids in Scotland during June.

"I was fortunate to receive a BSBI Training Grant to attend the Field Study Council course ‘Wild Orchids of Scotland’ at FSC Kindrogan, June 19th – 23rd, 2017.  I departed Bangor in N. Wales on the train, ready for a not-so-short journey to Pilochry. I arrived and enjoyed a fantastic meal with the group at the FSC centre before we went for a short walk to find Dactylorhiza purpurella (Northern Marsh Orchid). 

"Our tutor, Martin Robinson, described an orchid's general morphology, in particular, features that are important for identification such as: sheathing and non-sheathing leaves, bracts, the inflorescence (the collection of individual flowers on the stem) and the structure of individual flowers. Dactylorhiza purpurella has broad blue-green leaves, which are mostly unspotted. 

Gymnadenia borealis
Image: T. Jones
"It has a dense inflorescence of deep magenta flowers with a ‘diamond’ shaped lip (labellum) which has darker markings. Martin showed us the twisted ovary, the result of twisting 180° during development – so in fact the flowers are upside-down!

"Tuesday – as I was told by a few Scots – was an uncharacteristically sunny and hot day for Scotland. Our first stop was The Cairnwell to search a hillside of mostly heather for Dactylorhiza viridis (Frog Orchid) and Neottia cordata (Lesser Twaybade). “Frog!” I heard, and walked towards the point of excitement to find a beautiful four-legged creature, but no orchid. 

"We finally found Frog Orchids on a greener patch, free from heather. I struggled to see the resemblance to the creature we had just found, but it was a beautiful orchid nonetheless. It had a hood (formed of sepals and petals) and a globular spur containing nectar (the only one of the genus to produce nectar). 

Platanthera bifolia
Image: T. Jones
"Our next target was the Lesser Twayblade, and I am ashamed to say that I found none. Luckily, others had more luck and found several, growing amongst the heather. A small and distinctive orchid, it was easier to spot its pair of heart-shaped leaves rather than the inflorescence. 

"Our next site, Spittal of Glenshee mire, offered a total of four species: Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. incarnata (Early Marsh Orchid), D. maculata (Heath Spotted Orchid), D. purpurella and Gymnadenia conopsea s.l. (Fragrant Orchid), which was new for me. I was very excited for our final visit of the day to Stormont Loch, Blairgowrie, where we were hoping to find Goodyera repens (Creeping Lady’s-Tresses). 

"This is a species that I certainly wouldn’t find at home, as it is found in northern and eastern Scotland, northern England and has an unexpected population in Norfolk. It grows in mature pinewoods, in deep humus of pine needles. Unfortunately, the flowers were not fully open, but it was possible to see that they are very hairy! 

Neottia nidus-avis
Image: T. Jones
"Our first stop on Wednesday was Loch of Kinnordy, a RSPB reserve, for Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade). I had seen this species back in North Wales, but not in such numbers. 

"We then headed to Forfar, to a wonderful site of numerous Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly Orchid), Northern Marsh, Heath Spotted and Heath Fragrant Orchids. The arrival of rain was a good excuse to sit in the van and have our lunch. 

"We then found Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s Nest Orchid) in a small beech woodland. This orchid is a saprophyte (entirely dependent on fungi) and lacks green chlorophyll, which explains its honey-brown colour. The flowers are yellowish-brown and the lip has a nectar-producing depression. We then continued to a further two sites to test our new-found identification skills. 

Pseudorchis alba
Image: T. Jones
"Thursday was our final day of orchid hunting. Our first stop was Straloch Moraines, a fantastic site for Pseudorchis albida (Small White Orchid) and more Heath Fragrant Orchids. 

"The former was rather inconspicuous, at least in my opinion, but once we had our ‘eye in’, it was found in good numbers. It has a dense inflorescence of small flowers with whitish or creamy sepals and greener petals, and a lip which is deeply three-lobed. 

"We then headed to Pitarrig Meadow, Pitlochry, where we found D. incarnata subsp. pulchella which is more of a ‘purplish-pink’ than the ‘flesh pink’ of D. incarnata subsp. incarnata. Pitarrig Meadow also offered some more of the same species, which gave us the opportunity to again test our new found ID skills. 

Platanthera chlorantha
Image: T. Jones
"Our course finished with a visit to Weem Meadow, Aberfeldy, after seeing Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly Orchid) at Keltneyburn, which is a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve. 

"This was my favourite site because it was such a beautiful wildflower meadow supporting an abundance of dancing butterflies. 

"One feature which distinguishes between Lesser and Greater Butterfly Orchids are the two pollinia: in the former, the pollinia are parallel whereas in the latter they are well-separated at the base but taper inwards towards the tip. 

"I thoroughly enjoyed the course, finding a total of thirteen species and meeting like-minded orchid enthusiasts. 

Dactylorhiza praetermissa
Image: T. Jones
"I am now much more confident in identifying our native orchids, and although I will probably still need to refer to the books from time to time, at least I now know what characteristics to look for during identification. 

"Since returning to North Wales, I have continued orchid hunting and found Dactylorhiza praetermissa (Southern Marsh Orchid) which is a relative newcomer to the area and D. x grandis, its hybrid with Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted Orchid). 

"My thanks go to Martin for a brilliant week, and to the BSBI for awarding me a training grant". 

Many thanks to Tomos for telling us what he did with his BSBI training grant. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Inaugural meeting of the Kerry BSBI group

In the throes of recording
Image: J. Hamilton
The last time Jessica appeared on these pages, she was telling us about the very successful #KerryBSBIevent on the Dingle Peninsula. Now she's back to tell us about the inaugural meeting of the local botany group. Over to Jessica:

"The Kerry local BSBI group has found its legs and our first ever outing took place in Killarney on the 16th July. The aim was to get some recording done for Atlas 2020 but to also have a nice relaxed day for participants who are new to the world of botany and the system of recording used by the BSBI. 

Image: J. Hamilton
"The group was led by Therese Higgins and myself and we had 18 enthusiastic participants, majority of whom were all beginners, all of whom were able to take something new they learned away with them. 

"Botany is a subject that you really benefit the most when you get out in the field with more experienced people, I can attest to this, as when out you really learn ID tips and familiarity with species you might not have been aware of before. Sometimes a line or couplet in a botanical key may seem quite ambiguous but once someone shows a feature or the species in the field, it suddenly ‘clicks’.

Lough Leane
Image: J. Hamilton
"Once a plant has been pointed out and you get your eye in, you realise it’s often all around you. This is an aspect of the BSBI I love, whether a complete beginner or an improver you are welcomed with open arms and the atmosphere is always relaxed and easy going. 

"I hope we conveyed this atmosphere to the participants on the day! Plus I think we can all relate to that feeling when you’ve reached your botanical mental capacity for the day with all the new names and species etc., hence the importance of beautiful views and scenery to take in after! 

Marsh Ragwort
Image: J. Hamilton
"A few other locations were mulled over before deciding on Ross Island for our first outing, primarily as it was user friendly with easy access and facilities if needed nearby. Best of all, we were surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Killarney National Park.

"We collected over 200 species from two monads which was a nice feat for our first outing. The plan was originally to get more ground covered however as typical of botanists - less ground was covered in favour of ‘cooing’ of some very interesting species indeed. Which I think is very important, if we were to have zoomed through and not pointed out all the common species, they would still be unknowns to beginners. 

Broad-leaved Helleborine
Image: J. Hamilton
"Even the more common plants such as Slender St John’s-wort Hypericum pulchrum caused quite a stir when people first looked at them through a hand lens and saw the glands. I know Therese definitely enjoyed seeing the ‘wows’ and ‘ahhs’ that people projected upon seeing them.

"My botanical highlight was the beautiful Broad-leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine that we met quite a few of throughout the day, first just one or two and then nice patches of them along the shore of Lough Leane. I always get excited when I see any species of orchid (Anecdotal tale- I ‘met’ my first Heath Spotted-orchid back when I fell into a dike and looked up to find a handful growing right above my head, alongside some strange looks from a rather bemused spaniel of mine). So it was only my first time meeting this particular species of helleborine which was great and another orchid species ticked off.

"It was also the first time for me meeting several species in the ‘flesh’ as opposed to just via books or online. Three such species were Lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus, Slender rush Juncus tenuis and Wall Bramble Rubus saxatilis, - the latter being a entirely new species for me.

Image: J. Hamilton
"One species that caused excitement and uncertainty was the Broomrape Orobanche sp. The lean is towards O. hederae but this is not yet 100% confirmed, however it was also growing beside its likely host (Ivy) so it’s a fairly confident ID. Broomrapes in general are a lovely and different looking species to meet so I didn’t want to leave out a photo of this alien-looking parasitic plant.

"As well as these interesting species we saw lots of more common, typical species such as Remote Sedge Carex remota, Wood-sedge Carex sylvatica as well as a nice stands of Red Campion Silene dioica, Wood sage Teucrium scorodonia alongside speedwells, woundworts Stachys sylvatica and palustris, vetches and other members of the Fabaceae (Pea family). Remnants of the earlier spring flowering plants were also seen such as the seed heads of Early purple orchid Orchis maculata and Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, which would have carpeted the woodland floors a few months ago with their other woodland companions such as Bugle Ajuga reptans and Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella.

Red Campion
Image: J. Hamilton
"In damper areas we saw a few flowers of the last of the Ragged Robins Silene flos-cuculi that were still hanging on alongside Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium. The crisp odour of Water mint Mentha aquatica was smelled by everyone before we saw it. Marsh Ragwort Senecio aquaticus and Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria also put on a good show, especially around Ross Castle itself. Close to here we saw an aquatic invasive Fringed Water-lily Nymphoides peltata which is an escape from domestic ponds and the like. Angelica Angelica sylvestris was also starting to make its presence felt in the locality.

The invasive Fringed Water-lily
Image: J. Hamilton
"We were blessed with the weather with clear blue skies and sunshine all day. This weather also facilitated another highlight for me, we were surrounded by tens of Silver washed fritillary butterflies which are fairy like in their delicate appearance and movement. It was fabulous to see that they were relishing the good weather as much as we were.

"The good weather allowed us to have our lunch on the shore of Lough Leane, where another beautiful plant the Harebell Campanula rotundifola was a hit with people owing to its delicate and very pretty appearance. Nearby we encountered great displays of Common cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense and Hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum.

Common Cow-wheat
Image: J. Hamilton
"We were lucky to also have Matt Hodd alongside us who pointed out many of the lovely species of tree present on our rambles such as Wild Plum Prunus domestica and Wych Elm Ulmus glabra.

I asked two participants for feedback on the day and what their highlights were. Michelle Duggan, a fellow classmate from the IT Tralee had this to say:
"I had a very enjoyable day out with the Kerry BSBI group. The group consisted of mixed abilities from beginners to more experienced botanists. There was a fantastic buzz of excitement as we made our way around Ross Island, Killarney. The highlight of the day for me was discovering a Broomrape species Orobanche sp. I've never come across one before and was taken back by its amazing purplish colour, that highlights it's parasitic nature. I thought that both BSBI representatives (Therese and Jessica) were fun and engaging which ensured the day was a great success. I look forward to getting out for more botanising!"

Thea Eldred, who was also present for the recent Kerry recording event on the Dingle Peninsula back in June, said:

Lakeside lunch
Image: J. Hamilton
“I had a fantastic time on what I hope was the first of many Kerry BSBI outings. For me these trips are the best way to improve my botany skills (I have been shown over 100 new species so far!), and they are also a lovely way of spending a day outside enjoying nature and meeting friends. 

"The highlight of our excursion to Ross Island was to see the surprisingly intricate and beautiful structure of the Slender St John's-wort Hypericum pulchrum petals under the hand lens. I would normally pass by this plant without a second glance, which just goes to show the value of accompanying a skilled botanist in the field. Thank you Therese and Jessica for being so generous with your time and knowledge! I look forward to seeing everyone again on the next Kerry BSBI outing.”

Lough Leane
Image: J. Hamilton
"I echo what Michelle and Thea have said and I look forward with anticipation to the next BSBI Kerry event, which will hopefully occur before the end of this summer. (Keep an eye on the Twitter and Facebook Pages mentioned below).
To conclude I want to thank everyone again for coming again. Also a special thanks to Therese for her never ending enthusiasm for botany!
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". 

Thanks to Jessica for this account  - the BSBI Kerry group has got off to a great start (18 people on an inaugural meeting is probably a record!) so we look forward to hearing more about their progress.