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 liam@cfga.org.uk.  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


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!

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Covid-19/Coronavirus disruption

Dear botany friends, 

These are difficult times and you will not be surprised to hear that the Shropshire Botanical Society spring AGM is postponed until Sept. 2020 and that we have cancelled all field meetings, at least until the end of May 2020. Look out for further notifications here, also on twitter @ShropBotany, by email and facebook @ShropshireBotanicalSociety as the situation could change. 

The main thing is stay safe everyone and we will resume the programme as soon as appropriate.  The spring newsletter will be printed soon for members, meanwhile if you have pictures you wish to share of Shropshire wild plants local to you, please do, either ones you know or even ones you don't, when maybe the online botanical community can help you with identification.  Gardens, pavements, walls, paths and fields will all have some wild plants coming to life even if some of your favourite open spaces are becoming out of bounds.  It would be nice to see what is showing in Shropshire, even if we can't go as a group.  

Share a little spring cheer with botanical friends by posting a link to your photos in a comment below, on twitter or facebook or simply send by email and we'll share them for you.   

This was Moschatel, Adoxa moschatellina two years ago, 22nd March 2018, in local woods, I shall go out tomorrow and see how it looks this year, I suspect a little more advanced as we have had such a mild spring.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Is Pinus sylvestris native in Shropshire?  A talk by Dael Sassoon.

It seems to be the season for interesting talks.  Dael Sassoon will be giving a talk at 7.30pm on Tuesday 10th March, St Peter’s Church Hall on Monkmoor Road, Shrewsbury, SY2 5SW. 

He will be speaking about the palaeoecological pollen research he recently did in Shropshire, which gives evidence for Pinus sylvestris as a true native because it has been continuously present in the Marches.

He will then talk about his current research on peatlands in western Amazonia.  The talk is part of the winter series of talks organised by Severn Tree Trust.  All welcome. There is a side road opposite the hall where it’s easy to park.  £5 for the talk plus a hot drink and biscuits at the end!

Dael Sassoon is a PhD student at Manchester University.


photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Panek


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Darwin Festival 2020

There is a talk coming up during the Darwin Festival 2020 which may be of interest:

Patterns in Nature, Genes or Geometry?

Who: A talk by Derek Cooper
When: Saturday 15th February, 3pm
Where: Shrewsbury Unitarian Church, High Street, Shrewsbury SY1 1LR

Derek Cooper gained his first degree in Chemistry at Manchester then worked for his Ph.D. in photochemistry followed by post Doc research at Cornell University. He slid into horticulture on his wife Pauline’s coat tails and now follows the habit of a lifetime by asking searching scientific questions.





Sunday, 19 January 2020

Winter Social and talk on the Beautiful Burial Ground

Don't forget next weekend is the first meeting of 2020: 2pm, Sat. 25th Jan. FSC Preston Montford.

There will be a talk on the Beautiful Burial Ground project by the Director of Caring for God's Acre, Harriet Carty. The project is bringing together and making accessible biological records for churchyards, often species rich oases. All welcome, nor prior booking is needed and the event is free. Homemade cakes and biscuits, tea, coffee, berry quiz answers and prizes.  Hope to see you there.


Saturday, 4 January 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

One of the last sunsets of December 2019 over the Long Mynd was an absolute stunner.


It was quickly back to foggy and atmospheric in the following days but very mild and the birds started to sing at the turn of the year.  I hope you all enjoyed your festive holidays and have lots of  botanical new year's resolutions to get stuck into.  We're looking forward to organising this year's field meetings, so if you have any special requests for locations, send us a comment, an email, facebook message or better still see you on Jan. 25th for the indoor social and talk at FSC Preston Montford, Shrewsbury, SY4 1HW at 2-4pm.  Harriet Carty, Director of Caring for God's Acre, will be giving a talk about The Beautiful Burial Ground, a project to bring together records from churchyards and make them easily accessible.