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, The Threatened Plants of 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!

Monday, 25 September 2017

BSBI's Threatened Plants Project: interview with Kevin Walker

Copy of the "TPP book" on Pete's desk
Image: P. Stroh
The Threatened Plants Project (TPP) was a five-year survey of the fortunes of 50 British wild flowers which the BSBI Science Team had reason to suspect might be in decline. The New Atlas of the British and Irish flora, published in 2002, showed that many had declined dramatically in distribution since the 1960s and consequently they were categorised as “threatened” in the Red Data Book for Great Britain published in 2005.

Between 2008 and 2013, more than 800 volunteers (mostly BSBI members) headed out to look for the target species at known locations (selected at random) and report back on the size and habitats of populations as well as management regimes and perceived threats. 

Once the data were received by the Science Team (which comprised BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI Scientific Officer Dr Pete Stroh and BSBI Projects Officer Bob Ellis), they started work on processing thousands of TPP monitoring forms and analysing what it all meant. This was no mean feat, as the TPP was actually one of the most extensive sample-based surveys ever undertaken.

Kevin out recording in the field
Image: P. Stroh
Now that Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland is about to be published, I asked lead author Kevin to tell us a little more about the project and what we have learned from it about our wild flowers.

LM: So Kevin, it must have been a monumental task processing and analysing so much data! We've all been following your progress via the BSBI Science and News pages. I bet you heaved a huge sigh of relief when you finally sent the text off to the publishers! 

KW: It was a huge task to analyse this amazing dataset and yes it was great to finally get it off to the printers but we did the easy bit really; it was the volunteers who did all the hard work, visiting thousands of populations, often in remote locations in all weathers. They deserve all the credit, because if it wasn’t for them there would be no book to publish.  

The Musk Orchid section in the "TPP book"
Image: P. Stroh 
LM: Agreed, three cheers for our amazing volunteers! But how did you decide which species to target?

KW: This was actually one of the most difficult bits of the whole project as we wanted to include species that were genuinely threatened as well as species we suspected might not be as threatened as their declines suggested, possibly because they were inconspicuous or occurred in remoter areas. We also wanted to make sure there was something for everyone to survey, from Cornwall to Shetland to County Clare. No mean feat in 50 species!

LM: And can you remind us what those 800+ recorders had to look out for, once they were out in the field? 


Kevin recording Alopecurus ovatus
Image: P. Stroh
KW: Prior to survey we randomly selected known populations for recorders to revisit – this meant that we weren’t biasing the survey to the best or most accessible sites. Recorders then visited the sites armed with a 100m or better grid ref and searched for the target noting the size and extent of the population where found as well as management, signs of regeneration, habitat (National Vegetation Community where known), associated species from within a quadrat and also any perceived threats to the plant on the site. The latter was recorded whether or not the target species was refound.

LM: Ok so once people had recorded all that lot and sent you their forms - how did you process everything? 

KW: These data were digitised into a database.

Gentianella campestris
Image: Jeremy Roberts
LM: That sounds like another big job! Ok so what would you say are the key findings from the project?

KW: One of the main findings was the extent to which lack of management is now threatening plant species across a wide range of habitats. This is in marked contrast to the 1960s and 1970s when habitat loss was the key threat to most populations. These losses have largely been driven by changing economics of farming and in particular the decline in livestock production relative to arable and other ‘low intensity’ traditional practices such as coppicing. This has resulted in the cessation of management on many sites including nature reserves and SSSIs. Marginal lands have therefore become increasingly neglected whereas roadside verges have become less suitable for many species due to eutrophication and inappropriate cutting regimes.  

LM: Could you give us a couple of examples of that please?

KW: Field Gentian Gentianella campestris is a good example of a suite of species that have declined due to lack of management; this is a short-lived species of grasslands and heaths that doesn’t build-up a seedbank and has very limited dispersal ability. It is also a very poor competitor. It therefore disappears very quickly if grazing ceases and cannot recover even if management is restored. Heath Cudweed Gnaphalium sylvaticum has probably suffered a similar fate in the uplands.

Gnaphalium sylvaticum
Image: Mark Gurney
LM: So what - if anything - can be done about this?

KW: The absolute key is to ensure that surviving populations are managed appropriately, either through agri-environment schemes or by working directly with land owners. This will be essential for the future survival of plants confined to roadside verges for example. We also need to start to link up sites through habitat creation and management so that dispersal can occur, as well as reducing the amounts of nitrogen that are currently being deposited either from the air or agriculture. Introducing species should be seen as a last resort and only when conditions are right. And finally, we need to keep monitoring our threatened plants because without the amazing evidence collected by projects such as TPP we really have no idea of what is happening to them and why.

LM: Kevin, thank you so much for talking to us about the TPP, and of course for all the hard work that you, Bob and Pete have put into this project! We've only been able to scratch the surface in this interview so I'm sure lots of people will want to buy the TPP book once it's published next month. 

The back cover of Threatened Plants
of Britain and Ireland:
 many thanks
to the sponsors who helped
fund printing costs
Image: P. Stroh
The dedicated webpage for the TPP book is here and has links for people wishing to buy a copy but BSBI members can save money by taking advantage of the pre-publication offer: click here to land on the members-only area of the BSBI website (you'll need to have your password to hand) and you will save £5 on the cost of the TPP book.

If you haven't yet joined BSBI, 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

October really is the ideal month in which to join BSBI if you haven't already! The pre-publication offer on the TPP book runs until the end of October and of course if you join BSBI after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts in January and runs until the end of 2018. 

Don't worry that you've missed out on taking part in the TPP - we have lots of other great projects to which you can contribute once you are a BSBI member!  

Sunday, 24 September 2017

An adventure in urban plant hunting: Part Two

Last month we heard from Phoebe O'Brien about the urban wild flower walk she was planning to lead in Galway on 26th August. 

Participants such as writer and "lapsed biologist" Stan Carey took to Twitter over the weekend to report on how much they enjoyed the #bsbigalwaywalk. Stan's tweet is copied below and he also shared the photo on the right:

"Exploring Galway's native flora between the canal and the river. Thanks to for a fine walk & talk. "

Hemp-agrimony
Image: C. Seale
I asked Phoebe to tell us a bit more about how the day went:

"The BSBI Galway Walk was my first time leading an event for BSBI, and it was also the first ever Heritage Week BSBI event. I need to thank Maria Long and Louise Marsh for their mentoring through the grant application and event management, and Eugene and Ciaran for taking the heat and splitting the participants up between us. 

"I think we ended up with more than 25 explorers, including three generations in one family. It was quite a big group on the narrow path between the canal and the River Corrib. Ciaran managed to make records of 80 plants, including some water weeds which he fished out to the delight of the children, who then had to have a go too.

"We also need to thank Carroll's pub on Dominick Street for letting us use the beer garden, where we looked through the contents of my home made vasculum which some of the children had filled with plants they had found. This gave us a chance to do some revision and briefly open the floras. 

Phoebe (standing) and the urban
wild flower hunters
Image: C. Seale
"The mixture of ages, languages and abilities really made it a really interesting group. I learned much from them too.

"As a follow up I've written a five page PDF covering 20 Common Urban Plants, a selection of the plants which we saw on the day. The PDF can be downloaded here.

"I really think it was worth it to bring BSBI’s work to a wider audience and I hope that we can create more beginner events like this and work with the Heritage Council again in the future".

Phoebe also asked participant Catherine Seale to offer a few comments about the walk: 

“I had the great pleasure of taking part in the walk and was really impressed by the variety of plants that we came across. The keen eyes of the guides helped me to see things that I had never properly noticed before. Indeed, I was particularly impressed by their knowledge of the aquatic plants as this a particularly hard group to master. 

Wild flower specimens ready for identification
Image: C. Seale
"Species spotted included natives such as charophytes and pondweeds, and invasives including what may be Nuttal's Water Weed". (LM: I understand that Phoebe has sent this plant to one of the BSBI expert plant referees for confirmation]. 

"Botanising in the urban environment, I have to say, revealed a rich diversity that has left me wanting to learn more!  Well done to all involved.”

Many thanks to Catherine and Stan for their feedback and for the photos, to Phoebe for leading such a successful walk and for sharing the pdf, and again, we are delighted to acknowledge funding from the Heritage Council for funding this event as part of Heritage Week 2017.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Loddon Pondweed refound in the River Thames

David Morris, County Recorder for Oxfordshire, has been in touch with some exciting news: Potamogeton nodosus (Loddon Pondweed) has been rediscovered in Oxfordshire

Loddon Pondweed
Image: F. Hunt
David told me: "This rare pondweed, otherwise known from the River Loddon, the Bristol Avon and the Dorset Stour, was thought to have gone extinct in the Thames in the 1950s and there have been no Oxfordshire records for over 75 years. It was found by Frank Hunt back in August, near Marsh Lock, just south of Henley (SU774815), growing in a part of the river sheltered from boat traffic by a footbridge. Marsh Lock is less than 1km downstream from where it was seen by J.E. Lousley in 1941 and about 5km below where the Loddon joins the Thames. Frank also tells me that there is a patch in the the Berkshire part of the river too.

This is such a distinctive species that the BSBI referee for pondweeds, Dr ChrisPreston, was quite happy to verify the record from the photograph shown on the right.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bookings now open for Training the Trainers

Training the Trainers 2014
Image: P. Gateley
If you are involved in botanical training, whether leading wild flower walks in your local area or teaching plant studies to undergraduates, you're going to want to know about this year's Training the Trainers

It's a one-day event, taking place on Wednesday 11th October at The Gateway in Shrewsbury, and running from 10am to 4pm.

Click here to find out more about Training the Trainers 2017, to download a programme and to book (you'll need to do this before Friday 6th October please). Speakers include Chris Metherell, Mark Duffell, Sarah Whild, Sue Townsend and Paul Ashton

There is a small cost to attend the event but it's only £15 per person and includes a buffet lunch, tea and coffee, all workshops and talks and all hand-outs, including a copy of the Training the Botanical Trainers Handbook.

See you in Shrewsbury on 11th October!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Report on the Inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference: Day 2

A couple of weeks ago, we published Ashley Lyons' report on Day One of the first ever Grassland Conservation Conference. Now she's back to tell us about the second day. Over to Ashley:

"The second day of the inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference split into two very interesting field meetings.

Bill Grayson discussing grazing
calcareous grassland at Ingleborough NNR
Image: A. Lyons 
The Upland Calcareous Grassland Workshop was organised by Edge Hill University’s Ashley Lyons and kindly hosted by Natural England at Colt Park Barn, Ingleborough. The workshop set out to discuss the impacts of management of upland calcareous grassland on a range of taxa and to enable evidence based research findings to be disseminated to conservation practitioners and policy makers.

The workshop kicked off with results from Ashley’s completed PhD project which examined the impacts of contrasting grazing management on plants, spiders and carabid beetles in upland calcareous grasslands. Ashley explained the importance of maintaining a range of management treatments (including no grazing at all) across the landscape to ensure suitable habitat is available for declining carabid beetle and rare spider species. Interestingly, Ashley’s research showed that plant species composition, richness or structural complexity doesn’t differ between areas grazed by sheep or cattle as long as the stocking intensity is the same, a result also reflected by the invertebrates studied. Even the ungrazed calcareous grasslands had similar plant species richness, though the species composition of plants and invertebrates was different from grazed areas. If you’d like to read more about the study check out Ashley’s paper. 

Colin Newlands discusses grazing: behind the
net fence is ungrazed calcareous grassland
Image: A. Lyons
Colin Newlands, Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager for Ingleborough, then talked about the management of the NNR and the importance of continuing research in informing management decisions. Colin also discussed the successful relationship built with Bill Grayson’s Morecambe Bay Conservation Grazing Company, a model which could surely benefit conservation elsewhere.

Bill Grayson gave an interesting overview of how his cattle are used in an organic system to graze a number of SSSIs across the North West of England, growing slowly on species rich semi-natural grasslands with the aims of helping conservation and producing quality beef from healthy animals. Bill explained that as his cattle mature at around 5 or 6 years old they are considered cull animals by the market and as such they aren’t sold as meat for the table. Rather, Bill’s beef goes to producing high quality baby food!

Limestone pavement on High Brae
Image: A. Lyons
The group then headed out to visit a site that featured in Ashley’s research and is grazed by Bill’s cattle. The group spent time in different parts of the 90 ha field discussing how cattle have helped with the establishment of plant species such as bird’s eye primrose and frog orchid. There was also discussion on how the structure of the vegetation, along with the spiders and beetles that live amongst it, are influenced by the disturbance of cattle. There was also an opportunity to see an area that has been ungrazed for over 20 years, the lack of scrub encroachment sparked interesting conversation. The ungrazed area is separated from the cattle grazed field by a sheep net fence, the side where the cattle graze has a number of young hazel saplings growing, whilst the ungrazed side of the fence has no such regeneration, a pattern Ashley has observed in several ungrazed areas of upland calcareous grassland. This probably occurs because when left without grazing the sward becomes dominated by grasses (usually blue moor grass) and develops a thick layer of thatch that together shade out other species. Despite this competitive advantage that may hinder the establishment of some plant species, Ashley pointed out that these ungrazed areas are a vitally important part of the landscape for some very rare spider species.

Wigan Flashes Meadow
Image: M. Allen
The workshop concluded with a discussion on proposed management recommendations made from the results of Ashley’s research, an evidence based document that will be presented to national nature conservation organisations with the aim of highlighting the importance of considering invertebrate responses, in addition to plant responses, to management when changing management practices in upland calcareous grasslands.

Those with an interest in lowland grassland conservation joined Edge Hill University’s Elizabeth Sullivan and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Wigan Project Officer Mark Champion on a visit to Wigan Flashes, a site developed on ex colliery shale and Cutacre Pasture, a reserve created five years ago and managed now with a herd of longhorn cattle.

First Eyebright found on
Wigan Flashes
Image: Mark Champion
Discussion at Wigan Flashes centred on the botanical diversity of the meadows which are managed by annual cutting for hay, the urban location of the meadows means grazing isn’t possible. The meadows were created twenty years ago with a layer of topsoil over the colliery shale and addition of MG5 seed mix. After being abandoned for several years after sowing, the meadows became rank grassland. Mark’s intervention with mowing over the last 18 years has increased botanical diversity and led to a community close to Rodwell’s MG5 description. Interestingly, one of the five meadows has a different plant community compared to the rest despite having the same management since their creation. Suggestions from the group around soil conditions have prompted Mark to send some soil for analysis, something that revealed similar soil conditions among the meadows 18 years ago. It will be interesting to hear the result this time around. 

The meeting even found the first eyebright every recorded in the meadows along with blackening wax cap, a further reminder that nature doesn’t always require pristine countryside to thrive.

Whilst at Cutacre Pasture, an area a little on the wet side and grazed at a low intensity by cattle, the debate was about rush pasture versus grasslands such as MG8. Whilst each has their own botanical value broader management outcomes, such as habitat for breeding birds, drove the direction of the discussions.

The group at Wigan Flashes
Image: M. Allen
Mark Champion said of the conference “I have really enjoyed the discussions that have developed over the last couple of days at the Grassland Conservation Conference. The visit to Wigan Flashes and Cutacre Pasture led to some quite radical management recommendations that challenge the status quo and will be useful to management of the meadows going forward.”

Both field visits were undoubtedly very enjoyable and an excellent opportunity for academics, practitioners and farmers to discuss grassland conservation management. The visits rounded off an excellent couple of days and helped to achieve the aims of the Grassland Conservation Conference. 

If you would like more information about the Grassland Conservation Conference or would like to be involved in the next meeting (proposed for 2019) please visit https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/biology/grassland-conservation-workshop/ or contact Ashley Lyons".

Monday, 18 September 2017

BSBI Ireland Autumn Meeting

Have you seen the programme for this weekend's BSBI Ireland Autumn Meeting? It's being held this year at Craigavon, Co. Armagh. 

On the menu: four talks, with speakers including BSBI President John Faulkner (talking about exploring Co. Louth) and Graham Day on coastal plants; a willow workshop with Dave Riley, County Recorder for Derry; reports from Irish County Recorders; a fieldtrip to Carlingford Lough to look at Atriplex and Salicornia with ace botanist Paul Green. There's also the BSBI Irish AGM...

It should be a fabulous weekend! More info here.  

Friday, 15 September 2017

Remembering Ted Lousley

It's always a pleasure to hear from Roy Vickery, former BSBI Vice-President and the man behind the excellent Plant-Lore website. He emailed yesterday with the note below:

"The South London Botanical Institute will be hosting a small exhibition about the work of J.E. (Ted) Lousley - a former president of the London Natural History Society, the BSBI and the SLBI - on Thursday 21 September from 2.30 to 5  p.m. This is part of the Institute's contribution to the Lambeth Heritage Festival, and marks the 110th anniversary of Ted's birth. All are welcome, and although the exhibition opens at 2.20, the Institute will be open from 10 a.m. (Please note that due to cabinet restoration the herbarium is currently inaccessible)".

Thanks Roy!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Last and Least - Water-lily, that is!

Image: D. Wrench
Great to hear from BSBI member Mags Cousins about a recent trip to find Least Water-Lily Nuphar pumila at Cole Mere SSSI. 

Over to Mags:

"This lovely little lily (on right) is on the England Red List as Critically Endangered. Cole Mere, in Shropshire, is the only remaining site in England".

[LM: You can download the England Red List free of charge from this page.] 

"The next nearest populations are in Scotland, which raises the question, why is there nothing in between, could it simply be a doomed glacial relic? 

Image: D. Wrench
"Apart from its isolation, another significant risk is that it can hybridise with the Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea. Both lilies can be found at Cole Mere: are they hybridising already? 

"The species can be distinguished by the shape of the stigmatic disks which is wavy edged or lobed in N. pumila (on left) and smooth edged in N. lutea (below right). 

"This and other features such as leaf morphology can be intermediate in hybrids.

Image: D. Wrench
"Cole Mere is not exactly a pristine location for this rarity as it is a lowland eutrophic mere which suffers from serious algal blooms in most years. N. pumila used to occur in three parts of the mere. 

"There are now only two colonies remaining but these are thought to have expanded recently in response to tree felling on the shoreline that reduced the degree of shading. 

"Could re-establishment occur in other parts of the mere naturally through seed or rhizome fragments? Rhizomes are regularly dislodged and are washed to the shore but did not seem to be rooting again and it was not known if the plants were actually producing viable seed. The image below left shows the uprooted rhizomes, probably uprooted by Mute Swans feeding on the submerged "lettuce leaves!

Image: S. Miles
"With so many questions it was time to get some experts together to find some answers and come up with a conservation plan.

"Natural England, Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) Kew, Richard Lansdown (Chair IUCN SSC Freshwater Plant Specialist Group), Shropshire Council (the site owners) and the Shropshire Botanical Society set about a review of the status and ecology; the seed and rhizome viability and DNA analysis of the Least Water-lily at Cole Mere.  

Image: R. Lansdown
"We were ably helped by the Colemere Sailing Club who provided transport in the way they know best and the Inner Space Dive Club (on right) who just love any excuse to get underwater, even if the botanical remit was a bit different to their usual excursions: “Please can you count the number of petioles extending from the rhizomes?”

"Great fun was had by all and some really useful findings emerged which will be reported and published in full in due course".

[LM: Mags proposes submitting the manuscript to New Journal of Botany - hurrah!]

"Even better, after lots of intensive care, some brand new seedlings emerged from seed which are being nurtured by the team at Kew and will form the basis for a collection for conservation, public display and education at Kew Gardens". 

Many thanks to Mags for telling us about the Least Water-Lily!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Happy 20th Birthday to Somerset Rare Plants Group

Docks & Knotweeds workshop: a recent SRPG
meeting. Somerset County Recorders Simon Leach
 & Helena Crouch (sitting); Ro Fitzgerald (standing)
Image: Liz McDonnell 
Liz McDonnell has been in touch with news of a 20th birthday party for Somerset Rare Plants Group (SRPG). Over to Liz:

"Somerset Rare Plants Group is 20 years old this year. We are celebrating with an Anniversary Conference to be held on Sunday October 8th 2017 at Monkton Heathfield, near Taunton. 

"We have some really good talks lined up from distinguished and inspirational outside speakers and some of our own very knowledgeable members, and it will be a very informative and enjoyable day. It is a great opportunity to meet up with other members of SRPG and to share in the birthday celebrations with a buffet lunch and birthday tea. We are also inviting botanical colleagues from neighbouring counties, so it will be an interesting SW botanists gathering, but any BSBI members are very welcome. 

"Take a look at the flyer here; if you'd like to join us for the SRPG 20th birthday party, you can download and fill out this booking form and send it to srpgconference@yahoo.com to book your place and to let us know of any dietary needs for the buffet lunch. Further information about the conference programme and venue will be sent to you when you have booked your place". 

Friday, 8 September 2017

The Orchid Hunter tells his story...

Lady's Slipper Orchid
Image: L. Bersweden
There's been quite a buzz recently on social media around 'The Orchid Hunter', a book by Leif Bersweden which is due out next month. So I asked Leif to tell us what it's all about and this is what he said: 

"I have been hunting for plants almost as long as I can remember: in fields and woods, in bogs, up mountains, in rivers and even occasionally at school. When I was nineteen, I took a year out before going to university. For most people this might entail travelling around the world or carrying out volunteer work in a foreign country. Rarely, if ever, would it involve British plants. And yet I decided to spend the summer of 2013 searching for orchids.

Lindisfarne Helleborine
Image: L. Bersweden
"There are more than fifty species of orchid native to Britain and Ireland that flower every year all over the country. Many people have seen them all (with the exception of the enigmatic ghost orchid, Epipogium aphyllum) but often it takes decades to get photos of the full set. 

"To complete such a feat you would have to visit the remote mountainsides and wind-battered sand dunes of the North, the rolling hillsides of the South Downs and the beautifully barren landscapes of the west coast of Ireland. You would have to travel as far as Jersey to see loose-flowered orchid Anacamptis laxiflora, up to Holy Island to see Lindisfarne helleborine Epipactis sancta, not to mention going in search of the lady’s slipper Cypripedium calceolus, one of the country’s rarest plants.

"My challenge, then, was to become the first person to see and photograph them all in one summer. As you can imagine, this was easier said than done. Each orchid comes into flower at a specific time of year, remains at its peak for as little as three or four days and in many cases can only be found at a mere handful of sites. This means that seeing them all in one growing season, ideally in good condition, was nothing short of an organisational nightmare. 

Loose-flowered Orchid
Image: L. Bersweden
"Throughout the summer I was heavily reliant on the help of amateur botanists and BSBI County Recorders around the country. They assisted with site information and updated me on when certain species were coming into flower.

"I learnt about genetics, evolution, British plant-hunting history, human obsession and the vagaries of the British climate. From beginning to end I drove nearly 10,000 miles, took in excess of 50,000 photographs, visited 48 counties and went through two cars. 

"In the first week of July alone I went from Wiltshire to Wales, across to Kent, back to Gloucestershire and ended up on the Outer Hebrides three days later. It was, if nothing else, a wonderful way to see the country.


"If you want to read more about my summer in search of orchids, I’ve written a book, The Orchid Hunter, which is due out on 5th October 2017. It will be in all major bookshops and is currently available for pre-order online by clicking this link."

Many thanks to Leif for telling us all about his orchidaceous peregrinations and thanks also to all the BSBI members who helped him track down these iconic plants!