I had discovered records of sand leek in Warrington when poking around the rECOrd database in search of interesting and rare plants:
This was intriguing. I was down the pub with Dave Earl, the county recorder for South Lancs, so I asked him about the SJ68 records which would be on his patch. He had heard about it, and thought it was along the old cut near what is now Morrisons in south Warrington. And the idea for the hunt for the sand leek was born!
The sand leek is an Allium, a notoriously difficult genus. I think they are at least a three book group of plants, i.e., I don’t just key them out in one book, I try it in at least two more as well and see if I get the same answer. Once, I had five books open at once and was still stumped by an Allium, but that is a story for another day.
And so it was that only three people turned up to hunt the sand leek – me, Rebecca and Graeme Kay, the county recorder for Cheshire. Quality, if not quantity! We aimed to investigate all semi-natural habitats in the target grid square, recording all plants as we went, to see if we could find the sand leek. Here it is, in a picture by Kevin Walker taken from the very useful BRC Plant Atlas website:
The sand leek Allium scorodoprasum is usually a plant of further north in the UK – this map is from the BSBI atlas and is also borrowed from the BRC website. Blue records are native, red introduced:
So if we did find the sand leek, that would be a fairly important record.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t there. We found wild onion Allium vineale instead! I think that we were just unlucky not to find it during our search. I’ll have to go and have another look next year.
All was not lost, for we did record 188 species, including six kinds of Geranium, five kinds of Juncus and Californian brome Ceratochloa carinata, identified by Graeme. We did well for invasive species with some humungous Himalayan Giant bramble – here with Rebecca for scale:
and of course the traditional giant hogweed:
and water bent, lover of cracks in pavements: