Dandelions strike fear into the heart of even the most adventurous botanist. They are renowned for being even worse than brambles. Do I let that put me off ? Do I heck ! Given the opportunity to spend a weekend in beautiful North Wales with a group of fellow botanists I said yes, and so it was that I found myself arguing about leaf lobe shape and getting to grips with dandelions…
We gathered at Treborth Botanic Garden, a splendidly convenient venue run by the genial and very accommodating Nigel. On the first day we simply rambled around the garden and surrounding lanes and were rewarded with an array of dandelions from four different sections (there are nine sections altogether) and plenty of new vice-county records for Caernarvonshire. Yes, folks, if you fancy yourself as a peak-bagging sort of ecologist and are after new vice-county records to your name, dandelions are where it’s at.
On day 2 we headed out to Newborough Warren, clearly a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts of all stripes (see BRECOG report from earlier this month). There we found dandelions representing six of the nine sections in the genus, including Taraxacum richardsonii, named for our lead tutor John Richardson, who has been studying dandelions for 50 years. I expect our other tutor Tim Rich will soon have a dandelion to his name as well 🙂 Here we found our only species of the weekend in section Palustria, Taraxacum palustre:
Note the appressed bracts, which are an important identification feature.
Here’s Taraxacum oblongatum, another new vice-county record, on a roadside near Aberffraw:
On the final day we trawled this development plot on an industrial estate in Bangor. Modest, isn’t it ? – the sort of thing a botanist could easily pass over as being of little interest…
THIRTY SPECIES OF DANDELION !!!
I need say no more except to claim a new vice county record of my own – well, I spotted the plant, but I didn’t identify it – this is Taraxacum boerkmanii, a rather distinctive and pretty purple plant.
Nice, isn’t it ? There will be another dandelion weekend next year, likely in the New Forest. Come along and claim your own new vice county record whilst learning the ins and outs of dandelions and enjoying the company of some of the most ardent botanists in the UK and Ireland.