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:

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.