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!

Sunday, 26 July 2020

More on Sedges... by John Handley

Just like everyone reading this post, being in lockdown, I’ve had to adjust my botanising over the recent months. In the first instance I was trying to sneak a look at plants whilst undertaking my hour of exercise – at one point trying to be inconspicuous whilst admiring the Convallaria majalis, Lily-of-the-Valley, that has naturalised within Bridgnorth Cemetery. 

Recently I’ve been able to enjoy botanising locally which has provided a respite for my family as much as me. One of the areas I’ve been exploring is Stanmore Country Park, an area that has developed from scrub after the RAF Bridgnorth Training Camp was closed in 1963. The vegetation would initially have been dominated by Salix caprea, Goat Willow, and Betula pendula, Silver Birch, and this process is still enclosing the few areas of open grassland that remain. It is an area that is commonly used by dog-walkers, including my family and I. It didn’t occur to me that the secondary woodland and grassland held much interest but encouraged by Ed Andrews, the Country Parks and Heritage Sites Manager, I decided to have a closer look. 

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a diversity of species and semi-natural habitats that are providing a great deal of benefit for local wildlife as well as a much valued space for local residents. Along with over twenty eight individual Epipactis purpurata, Violet Helleborine (is it a good year for them?) I also recorded Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa, Grey Sedge. This is regarded as a rare plant within Shropshire (Lockton & Whild, 2005). The Rare Plants of Shropshire remarks that "although this is a common species in the south of England and Ireland, Shropshire is just on the edge of its range, and it seems to occur here only as a casual.  Of the two subspecies, the only one to have been found in Shropshire is ssp. divulsa. It has been recorded on roadsides, ditch-banks, and along paths in gardens."

Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa, Grey Sedge

The other sedge that I recorded, occurring quite frequently in the better grassland on the acid, sandy soils that occur around Bridgnorth, was Carex muricata subsp. pairae, Small-fruited Prickly-sedge.  This is not to be confused with C. muricata subsp. muricata, Large-fruited Prickly-sedge, which is believed to be one of the rarest sedges in Britain, but occurs in Shropshire, discovered in 1999 by Dr Sarah Whild on limestone scree at Jones’s Rough (SJ2424).  

Grey Sedge and Small-fruited Prickly-sedge are in the subgenus Vignea where the inflorescence is more compound, and the spikes are small in comparison with those of many species in subgenus Carex.  Members are characterised by having bisexual, sessile spikes, where the female flowers have two stigmas each. As you can see from the images the two species differ markedly by the interrupted inflorescence and diamond shape of the utricles, narrowed from above and below in Small-fruited Prickly-sedge. 

Carex muricata subsp. pairae, Small-fruited Prickly-sedge

Exploring in the neighbouring monad, at a local reservoir with a boggy margin, I came across another couple of sedges.  Carex hirta, Hairy Sedge, is less discriminating than many sedges and often the first sedge to come to my attention because of its conspicuous hairiness.  In amongst the verdant vegetation of the water’s edge the swollen, golden utricles were conspicuous, although the grazing water-fowl appeared to prefer Carex disticha, Brown Sedge, which was spreading through extensive rhizomes. A single tuft of Carex pseudocyperus, Cyperus Sedge, with its pendant piano-wire peduncles and bristly inflorescence was great to see, although common in the centre and north of the county where there are more water bodies, it isn’t so common in the south of Shropshire. 

Carex hirta, Hairy Sedge showing the hairy golden utricles

Carex disticha, Brown Sedge                     Carex pseudocyperus, Cyperus Sedge

Searching within the surrounding grassland I recorded Carex pilulifera, Pill Sedge, a tufted sedge that can tolerate the drier soils in the south east of the county.  Here it was lacking the close-set male flowers which I think gives it a distinctive shape. 

Carex pilulifera, Pill Sedge 

If anyone wants to share their own botanical experiences during the last few months, do email us on


Lockton, A. J. & Whild, S. J., 2005. Rare Plants of Shropshire. 3 ed. Shropshire: Shropshire Botanical Society.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

An abundance of sedges

Now that summer is in full swing we are turning our attention to sedges.  Fiona Gomersall is starting us off with her findings from a farm in south Shropshire where she found eight different species.  Sedges, always a good sign: 

"I visited a farm last winter in the Clun Valley when working as a farm advisor.  Knowing that I had an interest in botany the farmer had asked if I'd like to come back in the summer to have a look at a 'flower-rich patch' on the farm.  He wanted to know what was there and if the land qualified as a local wildlife site.  I returned a couple of weeks ago and surveyed the land as a volunteer and recorded 18 axiophytes which included the three following sedges of the damp areas:

Carex panicea, Carnation Sedge

Carex echinata, Star Sedge

Carex demissa,  Common Yellow-sedge

There were eight sedges altogether and other lovely plants like Scutellaria minor, Lesser Skullcap and Achillea ptarmica, Sneezewort. Yes, the site did qualify as a wildlife site and this would include an adjacent dingle which I hope to return to sometime."  

John Martin has also recently recorded an abundance of sedges, from Venus Pool (VP), the Shropshire Ornithological Society reserve.  There he found no less than 13 different sedge species, one of which was Carex pallescens, Pale Sedge, which has a slightly western and upland distribution.  This one was photographed from a meadow on the edge of Long Mynd.  It only grows on an upper slope of the meadow where there is slight seepage of shallow ground water from the Long Myndian shales.  It is certainly pale and note the crinkles at the base of the lowest bract:

Carex pallescens, Pale Sedge

Last week I came across the stately Carex otrubae, False Fox-sedge, in a damp woodland ride.  This year is was particularly abundant and widespread.  The photo does not do justice to this large, striking sedge:

Carex otrubae, False Fox-sedge

Back to the garden, Carex rostrata, Bottle Sedge is doing well in the pond.  The next nearest wild population to me is only a couple of miles away as the crow flies on the Long Mynd, at Wild Moor Pool where it becomes very abundant and is eaten by the ponies which wade into the pool to belly height to reach it:

Carex rostrata, Bottle Sedge

To a sedge with a totally different habit, Carex caryophyllea, Spring Sedge, a small species of short mesotrophic or acidic grassland.   This one was starting to die back already in the drought of a few weeks ago and is next to a rabbit dropping for scale:

Carex caryophyllea, Spring Sedge

Sedges are an interesting group, many being axiophytes - important indicator plants that reveal something about environmental conditions so are worthwhile investing a little time in getting to know.  Some are actually quite distinctive and easy to identify, so don't be put off.  There are resources available including the excellent BSBI Handbook No. 1 Sedges of the British Isles, by Jermy et al.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Botany Bubble anyone?

Those of you who were at the winter social meeting would have heard Harriet Carty from Caring for God’s Acre give an engaging talk on the Beautiful Burial Grounds project which aims to raise the profile of these wildlife rich spaces and encourage recording.  Members of the Botanical Society were invited to choose a churchyard or two (or as many as you like) in Shropshire and start recording plants.  

Liam Taylor, also from the project, followed up in the Spring newsletter with the list of churchyards and two maps showing where they all are.  Now that we are seeing lifting of restrictions, visiting churchyards near-ish to home and doing some peaceful recording (either on your own, with family members, as a botany bubble or with social distancing etc) is back on the cards.  It seems like a really nice way of easing back gently into botanising so we have reproduced the maps here.  Don't worry that they look small and ineligible, just click on them and they should open nicely.  There has to be a churchyard near everyone, surely.   

North Shropshire: 

South Shropshire:

Please continue to send your records following the usual protocol (see Recording Plants page of this website) to VC recorder Dr Sarah Whild.  Once they are all confirmed send a copy to Liam as well  If at all possible, please use 8-figure grid references with your records. 

This is just a suggestion so please only do what works for you, enabling you and others to stay safe and keep within current guidelines whilst getting out and seeing and recording a few plants.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Growing ferns from spores

You may remember Martin Godfrey's article in the Spring 2019 newsletter on how to grow wild ferns from spores.  Committee member Andrew Perry has done just that and has shared some of his experience here.

Andrew collected samples last autumn, just a few pinnae from each species with ripe sporangia underneath.  The spores look like brown dust which you collect after leaving the pinnae in a paper packet in a warm dry place overnight.

Andrew sprinkled some spores onto some damp compost in jam jars, with lids to keep them moist, and left them on a shady windowsill.

The spores germinated into prothalli, spreading across the compost.  The prothalli produce male and female organs resulting in the fertilized sporophyte stage, familiar to us as the ferns.

Andrew was excited to see that after several months the prothalli had started to produce tiny ferns, just as Martin described.  Athyrium filix-femina Lady Fern was the first to develop followed by Dryopteris borreri Borrer's Scaly Male Fern.  The young fronds were transplanted into some compost in a propagator on a north facing window sill to grow on and Andrew now has six species developing.

Very easy, just requiring a little a patience.  This would be an excellent project for later in the summer when the sporangia ripen.

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