Monday, 29 March 2021

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem, Gagea lutea

We are lucky in Shropshire to have a few populations of the delightful Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Gagea lutea.  It is described by the BSBI as a "bulbous perennial herb of moist, base-rich, shady habitats including woods, hedgerows, limestone pavements, pastures, riverbanks and stream banks; sometimes washed down on alluvium in riverine woodland subject to seasonal flooding, mainly lowland."  Populations are mostly small and widely scattered in the UK and the species is on the Vascular Plant Red List for Great Britain as Least Concern.  

Gagea lutea is a rare plant in Shropshire restricted to a handful of sites in base rich open woodland, W8 Fraxinus excelsior Ash woodland, including on the limestone of north west Shropshire and streamsides south west of Bridgnorth.


Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Gagea lutea

It flowers in March, so now is the time to look for it.  It can be a shy flowerer, and if not flowering can be easily overlooked as the leaves are strap shaped and very similar to Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta with which it often grows.  The two species can be told apart by the 3-5 ridges on the back of the leaf of Gagea, which is a brighter green and narrower: 

Underside of Bluebell leaf bottom and Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem, top


Bluebell, Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa

The photo below, shows the precarious site on a mobile sandy river bank on which there was a population south west of Bridgnorth in 2017, hopefully it is still there:


Wooded river bank habitat of Gagea lutea, south Shropshire

Gagea lutea in open calcareous woodland, north Shropshire near Llanymynech

Ruth went to check on the populations local to her, this March in north Shropshire and was pleased to find it flowering well:

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Gagea lutea, 27th March 2021, photo Ruth Dawes

If you do manage to see this lovely plant, please send in your records plus a photograph, an accurate 8 figure grid reference and an assessment of population size, to the v.c.40 recorder: Dr Sarah Whild



Saturday, 27 February 2021

Shropshire spring

 After a few days of proper warm spring sunshine suddenly everything seems to be bursting into life and the long hard freeze already seems a distant memory.  Beware the hard ground frosts at night though!  This stunning Small-leaved lime Tilia cordata coppice was spotted near Bridgnorth this week.  The stools are showing some fantastic regrowth and just how amenable this species is to coppicing.  The wood is multipurpose, ideal for poles, firewood, furniture and carving.  It is soft when green and dries pale and hard, good for beginners to try carving spoons, an activity for the remainder of lockdown?  Lime trees are estimated to have about 31 associated insects and 83 lichens and is a fabulous source of pollen and nectar.  The natural distribution of Small-leaved lime is limited by cool summers as it needs warmth to regenerate from seed.

Small-leaved Lime, Tilia cordata coppice near Bridgnorth

Also putting on a show were the native wild Daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus:




What is bursting into life near you?

Sunday, 31 January 2021

January 2021 goes out with another blast of cold air

It is already two weeks since we were reflecting on our wintry New Year Plant Hunt walks with an online slideshow of finds for the zoom social.  Shropshire botanists did well this year with a good spread of lists made across the county, some by members who had never taken part before.  The aim is to find blooming plants, with visible reproductive parts on show, during a 3 hour walk.  The BSBI have already started analysing the data.  An amazing 1,811 people took part and recorded an extraordinary 710 species in bloom.

New Year Plant Hunts in Shropshire, 2021

The warming effect of Shrewsbury town centre, plus garden escapes produced the longest lists for Shropshire.  Sarah and Gordon found the most species flowering with 65 species in Castlefields, which put this into the top 20 longest lists in the country.  Sarah spotted this pristine looking Black Horehound Ballota nigra:

Black Horehound Ballota nigra

 

Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua
There were plenty of the usual suspects from Shropshire including the top four most frequent for the whole country; Daisy Bellis perennis, Groundsel Senecio vulgaris, Dandelion Taraxacum agg. and Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua.  The latter was just about flowering on the Long Mynd:


Nice finds from other members included Sweet violet Viola odorata, a harbinger of spring, by John Martin in Shrewsbury:

Sweet violet Viola odorata

Sandra Spence recorded Butcher’s Broom Ruscus aculeatus, which is always a nice find whatever time of year:

Butcher’s Broom Ruscus aculeatus

Dan Wrench recorded Bilbao’s Fleabane Erigeron floribundus, which is distinguished from the somewhat similar Canadian Fleabane by being more densely hairy, 5 lobed disc flowers and scarcely developed ligules not overtopping the phyllaries.  It was first found in 1977 and most records are currently southern but it is likely to be often overlooked:

Bilbao’s Fleabane Erigeron floribundus

Another species that is likely to be under-recorded, but spotted by Dan was Giant Bramble Rubus armeniacus, an invasive beast of a bramble, very robust with whitish underleaves:

Giant Bramble Rubus armeniacus

In contrast, Small Toadflax Chaenorhinum minus, a small plant of well drained open habitats, such as railway lines and banks, walls and arable margins was recorded by Dan on his walk in Belle Vue and Sutton, Shrewsbury with his daughter:

Small Toadflax Chaenorhinum minus


Climbing Corydalis Ceratocapnos claviculata was flowering merrily in the South Shropshire hills which it seems to do all year round.  Whilst it looks and feels delicate it seems to be very hardy and interestingly is not touched by my Soay sheep:

Climbing Corydalis Ceratocapnos claviculata

A few folks found fumitories in flower and Dan's turned out to be Tall Ramping Fumitory Fumaria bastardii, take a look at those large, frilly sepals:


There were some more harbingers of spring, pushing through with Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis and Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna in All Stretton, a welcome reminder that longer days and warmer weather are on the way, even as January exits with a blast of cold air:

Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis

Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna




Thank you to everyone who joined in the winter social by Zoom, including those from east coast USA, it was fun to catch up, see some plants and be challenged by the quiz questions from Martin and Penny and the cryptic crossword by Sue.  Ruth won the prize for the crossword challenge with all of the correct answers, well done Ruth!  We don't yet know when we shall be able to meet up for field meetings, but in the meantime stay warm, healthy and hopeful and look forward to new beginnings, or failing that the next Bot Soc meeting which is 2-4pm Sat. 24th April.  This will be another Zoom with the inspirational botanist Josh Styles, speaking about his achievements with plant reintroductions with the North West Rare Plants Initiative.













Monday, 11 January 2021

Winter Social Meeting - by Zoom coming soon!

Our winter social meeting is fast approaching, next Saturday, Jan 16th, 2021 2-4pm. Yes, ok it will be a Zoom social and you will be responsible for your cake and tipple of choice, but it will still be a lighthearted get together.

There will be quiz with Martin the Quizzmaster; a New Year Plant Hunt (NYPH) Round Up with photos of finds and experiences from members, and answers to the Christmas Challenge Crossword competition.

Please email your Crossword answers and NYPH photos of top finds to: shropbotsoc@gmail.com

Members will have received a Zoom link already, but anyone is welcome, just message us if you would like to join in.

Sweet Violet, Viola odorata blooming in Shrewsbury


Friday, 1 January 2021

New Year Plant Hunt

Happy New Year Shropshire botanists and wildflower enthusiasts!

We are not doing an organised group New Year Plant Hunt but you can still take part, following your local COVID guidelines, of course. Shropshire is never top of the leader board for plants in bloom at this time of the year, even in towns as we still get a recognisable winter. But that doesn't matter, all records are of interest to the BSBI in reviewing the flowering trends in our flora.

Ulex europaeus in bloom, Shropshire Hills

The New Year Plant Hunt is easy to do and a good excuse for a nice long walk.

Check the BSBI website for full details: https://bsbi.org/new-year-plant-hunt-how-to-take-part

Basically it involves 3 hrs (per hunt - you can do several) of recording plants in bloom, until Mon. 4th Jan. Have fun, stay safe, take photos!

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Festive Greetings

To all our members and botanical friends, wishing you a happy, peaceful, healthy and restorative festive break!  



Winter Social, 2-4pm Sat. 16th Jan. 2021, by Zoom

Hopefully we'll see you at this winter social event, which will be a Zoom online meetup.  Members will receive their Zoom link automatically but if anyone else would like to join us, please email: shropbotsoc@gmail.com.  It will be very informal, party hats optional, you don't even need your video on if you are feeling bashful. 

We will have a slide show of New Year Plant Hunt finds from members so do take photos of your own NYPH and send them in to shropbotsoc@gmail.com with your stories to share.

We'll also give the answers and announce the prizewinners of the Bot Soc Christmas Crossword.  You'll need to send your answers in advance, the deadline for answers is Jan. 13th.  When you have completed the clues to the crossword, send your answers to shropbotsoc@gmail.com.  

Finally there will be lighthearted online quiz, answers on the day, no prizes for this one, just for fun.  We hope to see you there, meanwhile have a very Happy New Year! 



Thursday, 19 November 2020

Least Water-lily, Nuphar pumila - conservation by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the Millenium Seedbank, located in Sussex.  It is the world’s largest underground seed bank & conservation resource for global wild plant species.  For more info on the project check out the MSB webpage.

It seems a fitting day to provide an update of the project which started in 2016 to review the genetic status, ecology, and condition of Least Water-lily Nuphar pumila, at Cole Mere, Shropshire, the only population in England. 

Nuphar pumila Least Water-lily, by Dan Wrench

The partnership included SBS, Natural England, the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) UK Native Seed Hub, Conservation Genetics and nursery teams, Richard Lansdown (Chair IUCN Freshwater Plant Specialist Group), site managers Shropshire Council, and also volunteers from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Colemere Sailing Club.  The latter provided boat transport for a local Dive Club who were enlisted to count the number of petioles emerging from the rhizomes, not their usual dive remit but it was received enthusiastically after a little training.

The vulnerability of the species at Cole Mere was of concern and the project aimed to:

1. Provide a summary of the ecology of Nuphar pumila, management and monitoring recommendations

2. Carry out seed viability tests, and propagate seeds and rhizomes for ex-situ conservation and public display at Kew

3. Carry out DNA analysis to detect hybridisation with Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea, also present at Cole Mere.

4. Devise an in-situ conservation management plan.


Seed pods were carefully collected, making sure they were the right species.  The seed pod has a lobed stigmatic disk in contrast to Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea which is also present at Cole Mere.

Nuphar pumila with lobed stigmatic disk

The Nuphar pumila seeds were found to be 95% viable, which was great news.  BUT successful germination depended on very specific conditions, especially light levels and only 10 live seedlings  were obtained from 100’s of seed, which was very labour intensive.  Even worse news, all of these seedlings subsequently died.  The seedlings were watered with tap water and Kew had problems with algal growth.



So hopes are now pinned on the rhizomes which were collected during the same operation.  Each year many free floating rhizomes are found on the lake edges, possible uprooted by waterfowl, likely mute swans feeding on the submerged leaves.  Some of the less bruised ones were collected and taken for propogation, but the majority were too battered and died:


Nuphar pumila rhizomes pulled up by waterfowl

However, recent news from Kew is that from the remaining rhizomes with healthy shoots they have managed to divide these and have several healthy plants in the collection which they hope to divide again.  The best conditions appear to be a loam based compost and outside in ambient conditions rather than indoors in a controlled environment.  The mixed success of the propogation shows how important it is to ensure in-situ conservation measures at Cole Mere are as favourable as possible for the species and to continue to monitor the populations.