Sunday, 2 November 2014

An update on Sheffield's urban trees

Just a small post to say that I've updated some of the trees on my map of the Urban Trees of Sheffield. Despite no longer living in Sheffield, I'm still a member of the most excellent Sorby Natural History Society, and in August of this year the annual tree walk took place, resulting in some extra identifications which I've tried to include on the map. Thanks to Joan Egan for writing her 'Report of the trees in the city centre meeting. Sunday 10 August' in the November 2014 Sorby Newsletter.

Friday, 3 October 2014

England's new Red List of Vascular Plants

It seems to be an incredibly productive season for botanical publishing. A new bryophyte atlas on the way; fliers for a reprint of the BSBI handbook Docks & Knotweeds with BSBI News, and for books on Yorkshire's Hawkweeds and Bedfordshire's Orchids; but one of the most exciting publications has been that of the new Vascular Plant Red List for England

The launch of the Red List was also a celebration of the contribution of David Pearman to British botany. His name might ring the loudest bell to many as co-editor of the 2002 New Atlas (now rather expensive, apparently because Defra pulped all of the left over copies -- the less said about that the better). However, David has also contributed a huge amount to many other areas of botany, including several interesting pieces encouraging a more critical perspective on the impacts of alien plants. For example, see this article for a stimulating read! His views on the native statuses of British plants have also been very influencial: see this paper for a host of fascinating examples.

David Roy of BRC and David Pearman at his eponymous celebration and Red List launch
The Pearman celebration segued into the launch of the England Vascular Plant Red List launch very nicely. This exciting publication has used new interesting methods, and of course plant distribution data collected over more than 80 years by BSBI members and others, to reveal a rather worrying picture of England's native floral diversity. The new analysis has found that around a fifth of our wildflowers are now under threat. Many plants were found to have undergone worse declines in England than in Great Britain as a whole, highlighting the importance of this new England-level analysis.

Of course, we have known for a long time that particular habitats have been under a lot of pressure in England, but it is fantastic to have the broad, volunteer-led distribution data revealing the same thing as smaller, habitat-focused studies. It all helps to form a compelling picture of ecological change that should convince politicians and funding bodies that plant conservation is both necessary and really worthwhile.

Oh, and whilst you can purchase the Red List (a fascinating read with lots of nice photos) at Summerfield Books, you can also take home a nice shiny pdf immediately! I have to admit to not having read mine probably yet, but this is far more than just a list, there are around 60 pages of text, analysis and photos, with the list (covering all native plants in England as far as I can tell) covering another ~110 pages. GB Red List designations are also included. I'm looking forward to settling down with it and learning a lot more about the British flora!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Atlas 2020 recording with the Oxfordshire Flora Group

It's been a while since I've blogged, but, a lot has been happening (no excuse really when I look at Louise's efforts at !) Anyway, last week I went out with the Oxfordshire Flora Group, a group affiliated with the BSBI and the Ashmolean Natural History Society; seeing as this was only the second, in what will hopefully be a long-running series of Atlas 2020 recording meetings, I felt that it was a good time to do some blogging and promote the OFG meetings. In conjunction with this rebirth, vice-county 23 (or the old-fashioned county of Oxfordshire for those who don't habitually think in terms of Victorian vice-counties) also has a recently appointed new vice-county recorder, Sue Helm, and a new page on the BSBI website to boot. The page explains the myriad opportunities to get involved in plant monitoring and recording in Oxfordshire, and also assists with understanding the rather complex web of botanical societies and mailing lists extant in Oxon.!

But, back to the recording: Seven of us met up just south of Sibford Ferris in north Oxfordshire to accumulate records for a 2 x 2 km square (tetrad) in a region with precious few modern botanical records -- so just recording the car park would have a been a good achievement! Luckily we did get a bit further than that, and did a good circumnavigation of the tetrad, even gaining access to some private land, allowing us to add some extra stream-dwelling species to our list (just over 200 in the end since you ask).

The OFG inspect a verge. I think this was the Schedonorus pratensis v. arundinacea debate!
Needless to say, we all learnt a lot from each other, and an excellent day was had by all. We also had a good few conundrums to keep us on our toes. 

The mystery willowherb.
 This willowherb was a case in point. The general conclusion seemed to be that it was a hybrid -- but between which species? The jizz didn't seem quite right for E. parviflorum, but perhaps we shouldn't be doing willowherbs on jizz anyway. Although Crawley says that E. parviflorum is more-or-less unmistakable on jizz... anyway, one for the bag in the end. At home under the microscope I convinced myself that it might be E. hirsutum x parviflorum, but really it needs sending off to the referee. Another one for the to-do list! No doubt it will come back as parviflorum and I'll feel a fool!

But it wasn't all hybrid willowherbs, much of the trip was far more palatable. We found a ungrazed corner of pasture that must have been on the Cotswolds oolitic limestone. Here was Burnet Saxifrage, Chalk Knapweed, Rough Hawkbit and other denizens of high pH soils; a wondeful respite from the typical intensely managed pasture we are used to seeing in the countryside today. We then passed by an arable field, picking up a number of typical plants of such situations, including the Black Bindweed below.

Fallopia convolvulus

Not a rare plant at all, but one which I find strangely charming. The slightly manufactured perfection of the Polygonaceae in handy pocket size; the fearsome knotweed becalmed: who could fail to be charmed? By now it was raining, and a bit of a drudge was needed to circle around the bottom of the tetrad and re-enter it from the south. By good luck, the final habitat was a really special one: an abandoned quarry. The ground of the quarry was quite disturbed, presumably from rabbit grazing rather than recent use. Clearly an interesting habitat in which to look for new species. We were quickly rewarded with Basil Thyme (Clinopodium acinos), a plant which is relatively rare in Oxfordshire, with only around 20 sites or so. I had only seen it before around the entrances to rabbit burrows at Watlington Hill; here it was in abundance on every bit of bare ground, and even on some of the bare rock faces of the quarry. A wonderful end to a enjoyable day. Thanks OFG! And see you all next time (all welcome, regardless of ability!)

Clinopodium acinos