Monday, 13 November 2017

Eyes Wide Shut - a Botanical Awakening: Part One

Agrimony and Wild Basil
Image: D. Steere
Anybody who follows BSBI on Twitter will have noticed fabulous wild flower photographs from David Steere who tweets under the name @Barbus59. His photos have also been used in BSBI leaflets and publications such as the Annual Review 2016 and the recent Atlas 2020 Appeal leaflet. And he is always keen to lend a hand during #wildflowerhour and offer ID help to less experienced botanists

So I was surprised when David told me that he only took up botany a few years ago! I asked him to tell us his story and here is the first instalment, illustrated with a selection of his photographs: 

"I am at the ripe old age of 57, yet just 4 years ago I didn't know a Coltsfoot from a Dandelion. I regularly post wildflower photographs on Twitter and also help others to identify their own finds. As such, many assume I am a trained botanist or some kind of expert. 

Green-winged Orchid
Image: D. Steere
"This is far from the truth! I have been asked to tell you how I became interested in botany and give an account as to how I expanded my knowledge from nothing to a reasonable level within a few years.

"It all started when I began to take country walks with my partner, for the sole purpose of exercise. Like most people I saw everything, yet in reality noticed nothing. I would recount having a lovely walk in woods and seeing some views but little else. The botany bug rather predictably all began with a wild orchid.

"While on a Spring walk through a woodland path one day, I noticed a group of purple flowers looking majestic in the sunlight. I stopped and took a few moments to admire them and wondered what on earth they could be. 

"As I looked around I also noticed some clusters of small yellow flowers on stalks with big green crinkled leaves (read on if you can't guess this species) and it was then that I had the realisation that I was now in my mid fifties and I had no idea what any of the wildflowers around me actually were, so I determined to find out.

Cowslip and Early Purple Orchid
Image: D. Steere
"The purple flowers were of course, the beautiful blooms of the Early Purple Orchid and the yellow flowers those of the Cowslip, though it took some time to work that out. 

"I bought my first wildflower book, The Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers by Peter Moore (Bounty Books). It was this little book that finally opened my eyes to how many wildflowers there were and I determined to find and identify as many as I could. As I found species over the course of that year, I would put a tick in the book – rather like an adult version of an I-Spy book!

Bee Orchid
Image: D. Steere
"A couple of weeks later, by chance, I found another iconic wildflower, one that has drawn many people into botany over the years, the humble, but stunning Bee Orchid. It was a single flowering spike on sandy soil by a lake and I was entranced by it. I had never seen anything like it and was very excited about finding it. I had a small compact camera with me and took some poor photographs of it. It was the disappointing photos that also led me into botanical photography. Now, I can't imagine going out into nature without my camera with me, a much more advanced Canon 700D DSLR with a 100mm macro lens being the norm. 

"I also found a white sad looking "tulip" growing in a chalk woodland that intrigued me. I didn't photograph it as I thought someone had planted it there. I later found out it was a White Helleborine! The more I looked now, the more I really did see and I realised that I knew very little about plants and at that time their flowers".

In the next instalment, David will tell us how he proceeded on his botanical journey - watch this space!