Sunday, 24 May 2020

Flower colour and the seasonal quality of light?

Each year when the blues really kick in, I wonder whether there is a relationship with the seasonal quality of light.  Here are some blues from the garden 6th May; from top left moving clockwise, Germander Speedwell, Bluebell, Slender Speedwell, Green Alkanet, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Field Forget-me-not, Ground-Ivy, Wood Forget-me-not, centre Grape Hyacinth.  All are wild or naturalised in the garden except the Grape Hyacinth which is in a pot:

This was followed closely by the pinks, 8th May; clockwise from top left Bush Vetch and Red Clover, three geraniums Dove's-foot Crane's-bill, Herb-Robert and Shining Crane's-bill, then Red Campion, Cuckooflower, Red Dead-nettle and centre Crab Apple blossom.  All common native species, in the garden or yard:

And then the whites and more yellows after the earlier Primroses and Cowslips, start coming, more or less simultaneously.  These collections were taken this week, 21st May.  There were also a fair few white umbellifers (Apiaceae) not included here.  Clockwise from top left Bramble, Common Mouse-ear, Bogbean, Hedge Mustard, Wild Rasp, Bog Stitchwort, Cleavers, Oxeye Daisy, centre Heath Bedstraw:

And the yellows;  clockwise from top left again, Yellow Rattle (I just love the tiny violet teeth), Yellow Archangel, Meadow Buttercup, Kingcup, Yellow Pimpernel, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Wood Avens, Hop Trefoil, centre Tormentil:

Is it just what I happen to be seeing around here, or has anyone else noticed a seasonal pattern of changing colours? Admittedly from now it becomes a riot of colours, but later in the summer the deeper pinks and purples become more prevalent.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

An hour in Bridgnorth Cemetery, by John Handley

Though well recorded, Bridgnorth Cemetery is a short walk away from where I live and each year I enjoy a brief, but joyful display of a near threatened species in Great Britain.

Teesdalia nudicaulis in Bridgnorth Cemetery
Teesdalia nudicaulis, Shepherd’s Cress has been in decline for quite some time with many losses being recorded before the 1930’s.  T. nudicaulis favours open, free-draining, periodically disturbed shallow gravelly or acid soils.  In Shropshire it is typically associated with rabbit scraped heath grassland and upland screes as here on the edge of the Long Mynd:

The basal rosette of Teesdalia nudicaulis

Teesdalia nudicaulis showing the compressed spoon shaped fruits
The map below displays records of Teesdalia nudicaulis in Shropshire since 2000, showing records from Bridgnorth in the south east of the county, and Prees Heath in the north.  It’s most conspicuous presence is on the Long Mynd in the south, and Earl’s Hill just to the north.  Haughmond Hill near Shrewsbury and then Bulthy Hill to the west are the bulk of most of the remaining records with some scattered sites on the hills to the west.

The more recent losses in the lowlands are probably due to encroaching scrub. It is a winter-annual therophyte which means that it germinates and grows in the autumn, overwinters and then flowers and seeds when conditions are favourable in the spring, generally between March and June depending on the intensity of the spring sunshine.

In Bridgnorth Cemetery it grows where there is disturbance from rabbits which, I’m pleased to say, is currently a healthy population. It is reported to have a very short-lived seed bank which is a concern because without the disturbance from the rabbits, a closing sward won’t favour the germination in the autumn.  However there is some evidence from the Breckland Heaths that suggests that it might be more persistent than initially assumed and might have the potential to re-establish if there is further disturbance.

For more details see the BSBI Teesdalia nudicaulis, Shepherd's Cress species account

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

At sixes and sevens, or even eights

Hopefully you all enjoyed a read of the Spring Newsletter over the Easter weekend, emailed to you via the Google Group mailing list rather than printed and posted, for reasons that don't need explaining.  In case you are not on the mailing list and haven't yet seen it, you can find it on the Newsletters page of the website, just click the link and read it on line.  Or, you can download a pdf copy from Dropbox.

Members continue to find botanical cheer, no doubt aided by the fine spring weather.  Lalage came across this fantastic patch of Paris quadrifolia, Herb-Paris on Wenlock Edge during a woodland exercise walk.  Always a super plant to find, indicative of ancient woodland and preferring base rich soils.  There are plants with four, five and six leaves visible in this picture:

The flower is in the middle, interesting rather than showy but with leaves like that what does it matter!

Staying in the woods, Anemone nemorosa, Wood Anemone also seems to vary quite a lot with the number of petal-like sepals, here there are six, seven and even eight sepalled specimens:

Likewise Ranunculus ficaria, Lesser Celandine, in this patch on the edge of the Long Mynd is also quite variable, here with eight and eleven petals:

Peta spotted some Lamiastrum galeobdolon, Yellow Archangel, the real deal ancient woodland indicator, unlike the variegated spp argentatum garden escape which is galloping along our hedgebanks.

Pirkko found the hybrid, P. x polyantha, False Oxlip growing with Primula veris, Cowslips and near to the other parent P. vulgaris, Primroses:

Moving out into the open Pirkko also found the diminuitive Erophila verna agg, Common Whitlowgrass on an almost bare limestone path in Nantmawr:

Don't forget that this is actually a group of similar looking species but you will be relieved to know that the aggregate comprises only three species, unlike the infernal dandelions, so is actually quite do-able.  Sarah Whild would love to have your records: E.verna, E. gabrescens or E.majscula, please send herbarium specimens with these records though.  Check out the BSBI Erophila plant crib for a key and images on the VC77 botany website.

So just to end on a blue note, in colour but not in spirits is the lovely Veronica filiformis, Slender Speedwell:

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Backyard Botany

Taking the theme of botany on the doorstep quite literally, Jane has sent this photograph of Primula vulgaris, Primroses and Viola riviniana, Common Dog-violets gracing her delightful rustic doorstep.  The tree stump is an old Taxus baccata, Yew tree which gave the farm its name:

Only going slightly further afield and never one to miss an opportunity for some recording, John is giving his local square SJ5011, a thorough going over, each day a few more records from his local walk.  This Daphne laureola, Spurge-laurel was from last week in the hedge by the council car park on Wenlock Road, Shrewsbury on the way to the allotment.  He didn't say which weeds were actually on his allotment!

John is also scrutinising the cracks in the pavements and the bottoms of walls and spotted this Veronica brachysiphon, a Hebe from New Zealand, although this one probably seeded from someone's garden.  I had never thought about the scientific name of Hebe before; brachysiphon is from the Greek, meaning short-tubed (brachy- = short, little; siphon = reed, straw, tube), and presumably relates to structure of the flowers.  I wonder if this one will get a chance to flower this year.

Peta has been casting her gaze downwards (normally she's looking upwards searching the skies for the returning Swifts!), and has bravely tried her hand at photographing the diminutive Adoxa moschatellina, Town-Hall Clock, or Five Faced Bishop.  It is fiendishly difficult to capture this plant to show the leaves and the five sided flower, it would definitely be easier if it was a two-faced bishop, but always lovely to see this ancient woodland indicator.

Lastly for this post is a blooming Damson from Andrew's garden, Prunus domestica ssp. insititia, hopefully it will be good year for delicious fruits too:

Andrew offers some tips about distinguishing the Prunus species.  "Like our native Prunus spinosa, Blackthorn, the flowers appear before the leaves (on many varieties at least!) but the flowers are larger.  Flowers before leaves is also a trait of  Prunus cerasifera, Cherry Plum another early flowering Prunus which is often planted on roadsides.  All these species can be spiny.  Stace separates Cherry Plum by its first year twigs which are green, glabrous and shiny, as opposed to dull grey and often hairy (I've not found the twig colour very reliable though).  Looking at the flowers, I've seen varieties of Cherry Plum with white to pink petals, but never with the cream colour petals of Blackthorn.  With Prunus domestica ssp. domestica, the Plum, apparently the flowers and leaves appear at the same time, and it is not spiny."

That's all for now folks.  Here's to a bit of sunshine and warmth that is forecast for the weekend.  Stay safe and healthy and and we'll bring you more local botanical finds soon.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Going local, the first week

It was a bright and sunny start to our first week of learning to live with movement restrictions.  Margaret sent photos of some lovely blooms from her garden including Viola riviniana Common Dog-violet with a fine bluey colour to the flowers and you can just make out the pointed sepals, blunt sepal appendages and the notched spur:

As well as previous articles in the Shropshire Botanical Society newsletters Spring 2001 and Spring 2015, there are several helpful guides to violets floating around the internet at the moment including; the BSBI Plant Crib for Violas; a photo sheet by Discover the Wild and one of many ID sheets by @DinkyMoira on twitter:

Margaret also has Ranunculus ficaria Lesser Celandine in her garden.  If you are feeling more adventurous remember there are four subspecies of Lesser Celandine and this useful account on the Wildflower Society webpage gives a nice summary of the features and also the confusing names changes.

Small tortoiseshells were sunning themselves in Margaret's garden at the beginning of the week but but the weekend there was a chill wind which might have driven the first emerging insects back into shelter.

Wishing you all a calm and healthy week and we'll be back with more botany on the doorstep soon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Fern-leaved Corydalis - a new species for Gateway car park and the vice-county

Mark Duffell kicks off our series of botany during lockdown with an amazing spot in the Gateway car park.  In preparation for the restrictions on movements he went to Gateway on Monday to retrieve some paperwork from the Manchester Metropolitan University office.  Whilst waiting for Jenni, he decided to have a walk round the Gateway car park and make a species list and this is his account...

"I ignored anything obviously planted and only recorded the truly naturalised, e.g. Buddleja growing in the pavement cracks rather than growing (possibly planted) in flower beds. Was pleasantly surprised to see 25 species, including Erophila verna sl. making quite a show on the brick paviours, although with no hand lens couldn’t separate the species.

Most surprising was Corydalis cheilanthifolia Fern-leaved Corydalis native to China. It was growing in gravel against the brick wall, and would have been under at least 50cm of water a few weeks back. Did it arrive previously by floodwaters, perhaps from a car park users boot as seed? It certainly can self-seed in gardens, but this is the first time I have seen it in the ‘wild’.

Excitingly this would appear to be a new vice-county record. Previously there have been 86 UK records, with the closest other record being made by Prof. Ian Trueman and Peter Millett in 2008 in Staffordshire near houses."

Corydalis cheilanthifolia Fern-leaved Corydalis in the Gateway car park, Shrewsbury

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Botany at Home

Under the new Covid-19 restrictions on movement announced last night, botany in spring 2020 is coming closer to home.  We'll all be staying at home, only going outside for food, health reasons or essential work and staying 2 metres (6ft) away from other people.  That doesn't mean we can't get up close and personal with the botany on our doorstep and maybe even observe things that you had never noticed before.

Who knew, for instance just how fiercely hairy the new leaves of Geranium lucidum, Shining Crane's-bill are:

In an attempt to stay connected with Shropshire Botanical Society friends there will be a new post as frequently as we can muster for wildflowers coming to life on our doorsteps.  It might need the help of some of you out there, so please do get in touch with your photos of garden weeds, because we love weeds!