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:

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:

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:  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 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  

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.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Zooming into the AGM and "What's in a Name"

We are feeling just a little pleased with ourselves that we held an enjoyable and successful virtual AGM at the weekend.  We swiftly dealt with the Committee business, electing Mags Cousins to Chair and Martin Godfrey to join the Committee; heard the annual report from outgoing chair John Handley, given by Sue Dancey; and the financial report also from Sue, which was all good in a nutshell.

John thanked committee members for their work, especially Hilary Wallace and Gordon Leel for the hardwork of producing the Newsletter, there is a snippet below from a previous edition.  Hilary is stepping down after the autumn edition, and Andrew Perry has agreed to become Editor.  We're always looking for more material and articles so if you have anything that you would like to submit, please email

After the AGM business was dealt with, we handed over to Mark Duffell of Arvensis Ecology, for an informative and entertaining talk with slides:

"What's in a Name"  A short romp through the science of naming the natural world. Through stories and quirky discoveries learn how plants (and animals) have been named and what their names mean, not all in Latin either!

It is remarkable how some old names given to plants have stood the test of time, whilst others were remarkably descriptive but rather long winded and have changed beyond recognition.   He tested us with this one, do you know this plant? Ignore the chat box, that won't help as Cowslips in cow pats were answers related to the previous slide - yes, he kept us on our toes:

Answer below:

Another quirky fact, a revelation to some in the audience was the penchant for naming plants after wives, friends and foes, and the use of anagrams.  Mitella (Bishop's caps) and Tellima (Fringecups), two different genera, anagrams of each other due to similarities in appearance:

One from the audience is what is behind the name Polypogon monspeliensis, Annual Beard-grass?

It turns out it used to be in the genus Alopecurus and monspeliensis is derived from Montpellier in France where it was discovered.  There were lots of other interesting stories behind plant names, far too many to mention here.  

Huge thanks to Mark for providing the evenings entertainment.  It was lovely to see everyone's little faces again, or just icons for those that were camera shy or simply didn't have enough band width!  Hopefully we will meet in person again before too long, but Zoom-ing together at least provided a chance to get together with fellow botanists and delve into botanical facts.  Thank you to everyone who joined us, including non member guests.


Saturday, 19 September 2020

Virtual AGM Sat. 26th Sept. 7pm

Members will have heard already we're going virtual for the AGM, next Sat. 26th 7pm, a first for the society. Most of us have had a fair bit of practice with video meetings this year so we're sure to have an enjoyable evening, especially since our very own Mark Duffell will be giving a talk:

"What's in a name - a short romp through the science of naming the natural world."  Through stories and quirky discoveries learn how plants (and animals) have been named and what their names mean, not all in Latin either!

If you are curious about the meaning of a particular plant's scientific name, for instance what does ‘galeobdolon’ mean and how does it relate to Yellow Archangel, then now is your chance to ask.  Mark will attempt to discover the meaning (etymology) behind your favourite plants name (native or non-native, hardy or not) so send your question to him in advance on:

At the end of the talk there will be a question and answer session when Mark will provide the answers.  If you don't send your question in advance then we will have to work it out together on the night!.

The Zoom meeting is open to non members so message us for a link, or email:    

You can probably guess this one Common Fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica:

We're really looking forward to getting together again, may be even seeing you (virtually), but if you're feeling camera shy you don't have to have your own video on!