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
The New Year in Burtonwood dawned wet and windy, but a small group of hardy botanists were not deterred (much) and set off in heavy rain to see how many flowering plants we could find. The weather had been rather cold in the lead-up to the survey and we decided we would be happy to find seven species in flower – one each!
It started well with two species in the car park and another four in a nearby arable field. On the edge of the road Sam found white deadnettle and that was our seven species – we could officially retire to the pub at this point. Did we stop there? No. The pub was not open yet 😦 so we continued our walk along the Sankey Valley.
A select group for today’s Flintshire BSBI outing at New Brighton near Buckley, being just me and Tom. We usually have other botanists present to chivvy us on, but free to indulge our habit of genteel argument about plant identification, we began in the car park of the Beaufort Park Hotel (very good coffee, btw) and wandered the footpaths and lanes around the village for a day full of pleasantly slow paced botanical rambling. And heavy showers, unfortunately, so I didn’t take any pictures of the 218 species we recorded. A more than respectable total for two people on a wet day in what is quite an ordinary tetrad by Flintshire standards 🙂
Species group of the day was Prunus with blackthorn, wild cherry, plum and (probably) dwarf cherry all seen in the hedgerows. We also argued happily about roses, recording definite Rosa arvensis, cop-out Rosa canina agg., Rosa mollis and a possible Rosa caesia vosagiaca.
For the glory hunters, we scored a new 10k record for Polygonum aviculare s.s. and the Rosa vosagiaca would be a new 10k too, had we been completely confident about it.
Our excursion to Gorse Covert Mounds started rather unpromisingly with heavy rain and only two of us arriving for the trip. In fact, it rained so hard throughout the meeting that I don’t have any photos to prove we even went out! My phone is supposed to be waterproof, but there are limits…….
We met at the usual place for Gorse Covert Mounds, an urban park sandwiched between a main road and housing development in Birchwood, east of Warrington. There are a variety of habitats represented here, including neutral grassland, plantation woodland and scrub, ponds and a small area of relict raised bog at the eastern end – Pestfurlong Moss. So we were hopeful of a reasonable species count even with only two of us looking.
Given the weather, I was quite happy with our total of 130 species, including four species of Sphagnum we couldn’t resist looking at at Pestfurlong Moss.