The British Bryological Society Spring Meeting was in Devon this year. That’s a long way from home, but I was tempted down by the opportunity to spend time in one of England’s loveliest counties in the company of expert bryologists.
It was actually still 2018 when Warrington Plant Group completed our 2019 New Year Plant Hunt, but we wouldn’t let a little detail like that put us off 😉
Five botanists met on 30th December in a pub car park in north Warrington to begin our quest. As always, we started in the car park. You really never can tell what you might find in a car park, there is always something to look at, and often something unexpected, too. Always worth casting your eyes about while you’re putting your boots on and waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. The same rule applies to your lunch stop, except in this case I usually find I have sat on the most interesting species of the day…. !
Having knocked off several flowering species in the car park, including narrow-leaved ragwort Senecio inaequidens (a new tetrad record), we went up the footpath into the arable farmland to see what we might discover among the crop. Points were soon awarded to Rebecca for identifying a plant of turnip within the crop from at least 15 metres away, owing to its distinctive flat-topped inflorescences. We spent a while searching for open florets on cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata only to give up and then more or less instantly find some around the next corner. Always the way!
By a large oak tree we discovered large-flowered hemp-nettle Galeopsis speciosa, a pleasant surprise. This species is something of a local speciality, but is not often seen, with only two previous records for the tetrad this decade. Our plant was somewhat faded, but unmistakable. Definitely a nice plant to see.
We continued our mission along a ditch-side footpath, which proved disappointing, with red campion being the only new addition to our list. Heading into the village of Croft, we were invigorated by a selection of pavement weeds as we made our way into the wild land on the edge of the housing estate. Here, there were few plants in flower and we added only slender rush Juncus tenuis and wood avens Geum urbanum, but we did see lots of interesting fungi, so it was worth a visit.
We arrived back at the pub at 1pm with 34 flowering species under our belts and were more than ready for a roast dinner to celebrate our achievement 🙂
Photos by @garymysnail and @botany_beck on Twitter
This year’s field gentian hunt took place after a prolonged period of hot dry weather. Not surprisingly, limestone grassland at Loggerheads Country Park, our target site, was looking brown and crispy by mid-July and, not surprisingly, there was no sign of any gentians, field or otherwise.
As a consolation prize, we found lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus, which was the first record of this species on the Flintshire side since 1981. A pleasant surprise and proof that it is worth trying to re-find old records of notable plants.
Here’s the Thalictrum:
The under-recorded tetrads round Rhuddlan have been given a workout in the past three years! Here is the third in the series, the north-eastern tetrad, encompassing a retail park, some housing and adjacent fields and lanes. Quite ordinary countryside by Flintshire standards, but you never know what you might find, and there is always something to amuse the adventurous botanist. Continue reading