Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Recording in 2015

Attention VC55 Botanists!

Uta & botanists ready to record at Charity Fields, Desford

You may have heard that the BSBI has a major project underway: to record the vegetation of Britain and Ireland for a new Atlas by 2020. This means that there are only five seasons left to do the recording needed. 

While a lot of recording has taken place since 2000, about 140 tetrads (2km x 2km squares) are still under-recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland, so there is still a fair amount of the county left to cover. This is where you can all help by adopting a tetrad!

Russell & Sara show us how to tell our ferns apart!
We'd like as many of you as possible to take on one tetrad (or more!) and record it for the Atlas. It's not as daunting as it sounds! There will be a field meeting to show you what to do and if you don't feel up to taking on a tetrad on your own this year, you can team up with somebody else (i.e. a more experienced botanist) and survey together. 

And there will be some support on offer, as we hope to produce some local keys for difficult groups, and have training sessions, as needed.

If you want to know more about recording for the Atlas, there's some info on the BSBI website and we'd like to invite you to a meeting on Monday March 2nd at the Coach House in the Botanic Garden at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available and you can find out which tetrads we hope to survey this year and how you can get involved.

Geoffrey leading a Conifer ID session at the Botanic Garden
We are still putting together this year's field meetings programme and will be including some more general meetings, but this year's focus will be very much about recording for the new Atlas. We hope you will all have a go and Adopt a Tetrad!

Geoffrey, Louise, Uta and Russell

Friday, 16 January 2015

Talk by BSBI President: Orchids to Agriculture and Back Again.

Dactylorhiza kerryensis in Co. Kerry, Ireland
Image: I. Denholm
Ian Denholm is coming to Leicester on Saturday 24th January to offer us a talk entitled 'From Orchids to Agriculture and Back Again'. Many thanks to 22 of you who voted in this Doodle poll for your favourite date. 

There is still lots of space in the Coach House at University of Leicester Botanic Garden, where we are holding the event, starting at 2pm, and we have lots of chairs (!) so even if you didn't vote in the poll, you are very welcome to come along anyway.

Ian gave this talk for the first time to the Shropshire Botanical Society last month. Wasn't it kind of him to do a practice run before he heads over to Leicester with the polished article ;-) Apparently the Shropshire botanists enjoyed a quiz as well, so Ian is trying to get that for us too.    

Ian is one of BSBI's two Orchid Referees, as well as BSBI President. You may have seen a paper by Prof Richard Bateman, the other Orchid Referee, in the current issue of New Journal of Botany. This is BSBI's members-only scientific journal.

Ian (left) & Richard hunting for Orchids on the Burren
Image courtesy R. Bateman
If you haven't seen the Bateman paper (or even if you have!) then you may enjoy this review by Ryan Clark, the Co-ordinator of BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt.

Ian and Richard have taken many orchid-hunting trips across Britain and especially Ireland over the years, during which I gather Guinness has also been sampled. We are hoping that Ian will spill the beans on how his and Richard's work on both these areas of research is progressing. 

See you at 2pm at the Coach House for Ian's talk - we'll break up around 4-4.30 and head off to buy our eminent speaker a pie and a pint before he heads back to Hertfordshire - hope you will all join us in the Cradock!

Posted by Louise

VC55 Bryophyte Meetings 2015

For the winter month we have planned three meetings to record and learn about bryophytes. These meetings are open for everyone with an interest in bryophytes. The meetings start at 10.30 and take as long as weather conditions allow, so it is always best to bring a packed lunch. Apart from weatherproof clothes, it is useful to bring a hand lens (x10 or x20) and some paper packets or small containers for collecting specimens. The BBS field guide (Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland: a Field-guide 2010) is very useful - the Field Key can be downloaded from the internet. Please use the doodle links to indicate if you would like to take part and to organise car sharing, or contact Uta Hamzaoui (email or 07852 682 790). 

31 January, Launde Big Wood

Atrichum undulatum
This 40 ha woodland is a SSSI and managed by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. It will be interesting to see how different management and different soil conditions are reflected in the bryphyte flora. We will meet at SK795035 on the road verge to walk to the wood together.

28 February, Whites Wood

Mnium hornum
Whites Wood is part of Swithland Wood SSSI and mainly consists of wet woodland. The wood hasn't been managed for a while and in places it is difficult to walk through. Wellingtons will be necessary. At the end of the meeting we might look at a stand of ash trees to do a Splash survey (National survey of plants and lichens associated with Ash). Meet at SK537129, Swithland Wood North car park.

28 March, Sphagnum Meeting at Charnwood Lodge

Sphagnum palustre
Charnwood Lodge is one of the best places in vc55 for bog mosses (Sphagnum). In the morning we will do a ca 2 hrs walk through the nature reserve to collect Sphagnum specimens from different habitats (Wellington boots will be useful). The plan is then to use the new study facilities and look at the specimens with hand lenses and microscopes and use the Field Key to Sphagnum. Meet at the 'bomb rocks' car park of Charnwood Lodge Nature Reserve at SK462156. Booking is necessary for the indoor part of the meeting as space is limited.
No doodle for this meeting. Please email me to book a place.
Posted by Uta.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

New Year Plant Hunt 2015: the big freeze

A quick group shot before we start surveying
Image: L. Marsh
Many thanks to everyone who braved the cold and fog today for our annual Plant Hunt to record what is in flower at New Year. 

18 botanists turned out, including John and Monika Walton, Vice-County Recorders for Warks., Brian "Eagle-eyes" Laney, plant-spotter extraordinaire and Dr Geoffrey Hall, incoming  VCR for Leicestershire & Rutland. 

I was there too, but I am listing our four most expert botanists so you will all agree that any plants in bloom on our survey would certainly have been spotted and recorded.

Dr Geoffrey Hall and Gorse in flower
Image: L. Marsh
We followed the same route as last year, from the Rally Bank (taking in a few hundred metres of canalside), along several urban streets, looking into old car parks and bits of waste ground, over to All Saints and back past Vaughan College. Then into cars and over to the old Wolsey Factory site, ending up near the Space Centre, just as we did a year ago.

 So, what did we find in flower? 36 taxa, four of which were not recorded last year, when our total from this route was 66. So 34 (51%) of the taxa flowering at this time in this location last year were not in flower today. 

James with frosted flowering specimen!
Image: J. Clough
The only real variable is the weather, which was much milder in the weeks leading up to last year's Plant Hunt. The few nights of snow and frost we saw last week had quite a dramatic impact on what was in flower - even daisies today were few and far between! 

We have two specimens which need to be checked. One is a Hawkweed (Hieracium sp.) which Geoffrey will probably press and send to the BSBI Referee, and a Fleabane Conyza sp., which needs a closer look than was possible in the field. 

Watch this space and I'll let you know what Geoffrey decides.

Brian spotted Narrow-leaved ragwort Senecio inaequidens in flower and it was interesting to see Water Bent Polypogon viridis (not recorded last year) flowering merrily despite the weather, although it was against a south-facing wall. We checked all grasses carefully for anthers - Wall Barley Hordeum murinum didn't quite make it!

We were as frozen as the plants after 3 hours
Image: J. Clough
You can access the spreadsheet by clicking here and once it has been checked by all of the 18 botanists who came out today, the records will go into the New Year Plant Hunt database. 

2015 records are on page 2, while page 1 shows what we found in 2014, so you can compare results from the two surveys.

You can follow national results of the Hunt here on the BSBI News & Views page.  

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Eyebright ID Workshops in VC55.

An Eyebright, but which one?
Image: C. Metherell
If you would like to improve your skills in identifying Euphrasia spp. (Eyebrights) then this is your chance - especially if you either enjoyed, or were unsuccessful in getting a place on, the 45 minute taster session at the BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting

Chris Metherell is currently writing a new BSBI Handbook on Euphrasia. He has been speaking about his progress and trying out his ID keys at national BSBI events like the AEM. 

He is now moving on to all-day sessions, just 3 across England to start with, and we are very lucky that Chris has offered a session in VC55.

In fact so many of you have already expressed an interest that he is coming down from Durham, where he's based, for the 20th and 21st of January to give us two bites of the cherry! 

Chris in the Herbarium, Univ. Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
If you would like to request a space, please email us asap at and we can book you in. Please specify if you would prefer one or other of the two dates and we'll try to accommodate you. 

To whet your appetites, you can download the AEM Eyebright presentations given by Chris, Fred & Alex from this page on the BSBI website. 

Even better, you can also download all but one of the other AEM presentations - I'm still chasing the last one! My New Year's resolution is to get the complete the set uploaded for you ;-)