To all our members and botanical friends, wishing you a happy, peaceful, healthy and restorative festive break!
Saturday 19 December 2020
Thursday 19 November 2020
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.
Nuphar pumila with lobed stigmatic disk
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
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 email@example.com
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:
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
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!
Sunday 26 July 2020
|Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa, Grey Sedge|
|Carex muricata subsp. pairae, Small-fruited Prickly-sedge|
|Carex pilulifera, Pill Sedge |
Thursday 2 July 2020
|Carex panicea, Carnation Sedge|
|Carex echinata, Star Sedge|
|Carex demissa, Common Yellow-sedge|
|Carex pallescens, Pale Sedge|
|Carex otrubae, False Fox-sedge|
|Carex rostrata, Bottle Sedge|
|Carex caryophyllea, Spring Sedge|
Wednesday 17 June 2020
Saturday 13 June 2020
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.
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.
Sunday 24 May 2020
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:
Sunday 3 May 2020
|Teesdalia nudicaulis in Bridgnorth Cemetery|
|The basal rosette of Teesdalia nudicaulis|
|Teesdalia nudicaulis showing the compressed spoon shaped fruits|
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
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:
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
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.