Sunday, 25 October 2015

Golden Dock at St Aidan's

With sunshine and blue skies today I thought it worth a late season trip to St Aidan's (VC64) to see if any of the Golden Dock (Rumex maritimus) rosettes seen earlier in the year had made it to flowering. I was rewarded with four plants, one of which was in peak bloom and worth photographing. This species was more abundant a couple of years ago, water levels and goose trampling haven't favoured it recently. I also wonder if the recent rapid spread of New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii) is also impeding germination.

Golden Dock is a rare plant in VC64 and is largely restricted to a few wetlands in the far east of the county. It is a little more frequent in VC31, but it is still a scarce plant of drawdown habitats.

Less attractive, but equally pleasing - at least to me and perhaps because it requires a little more investment in time to go beyond a species-only identification - was the scattering of the wetland specialist subspecies of Greater Plantain (Plantago major ssp. intermedia) along the drawdown zone. While identifications should always be confirmed by counting the number of seeds in a pod (>15 seeds is diagnostic) it is very distinct once known, with its typically diminutive size, pointed leaf tip, toothed and hairy leaves, and usually decumbent inflorescence. It is also much more specialist in niche than its more competitive and weedy sister (ssp. major), normally being associated with disturbed damp ground, and often only germinating and flowering late in the season.

A final lucky find was a second location for Greater Soft-rush (Juncus pallidus), again doing its best to blend in with the Club-rushes (Schoenoplectus spp.). The following photo is pretty ropey (I should have got my camera out rather than using my phone), and it does nothing to show the size of the plant which was easily as tall as me.

Progress in Recording for the New Atlas

As the season winds down I thought it worth a quick review of where VC31 and 64 stand with regard to the objectives of the BSBI Atlas 2020 project. There are only four seasons left to record for the Atlas, so now is a good time to look at successes to date and requirements going forward.

VC31 is in good shape, and essentially work here is done to meet minimum requirements for the New Atlas. This is not to say more records aren't of value - lets try and exceed minimum requirements - but we have the luxury of going where the whim takes us without an emphasis on "square-bashing".

The following map taken from my VC page on the BSBI database website clearly shows the good performance in VC31 since 2000. The map on the right illustrates how thoroughly hectads have been re-surveyed - the paler the squares the more thorough the re-recording. The map on the left shows level of survey effort by tetrad - the darker the colour the more survey effort has been applied. The latter map amply illustrates the effects of bias towards the home patches of active recorders, and the honeypot effects associated with places like Woodwalton Fen and Paxton Pits.

So thinking ahead, while we can be satisfied in a job well done, the maps together suggest that "white" tetrads need a visit as these have not been recorded post-2000, and that there is a need for more recording on the fringes of the VC.

This situation in VC64 is also relatively favourable, but given this is a much larger county there is still a definite need for square-bashing in locations away from the main areas of interest for the most active local recorders and recording societies.

The map on the left again shows which hectads are relatively better recorded, and there is a clear need to target the larger dark red hectads on the fringes of the VC. The map on the right shows clear hotspots of recording activity focussed on my recent areas of interest as well as Wharfedale, the Washburn valley, Bowland and the Leeds/Bradford conurbation. Note the hectads with no or only few recently recorded tetrads.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Armchair Botany

The nights are drawing in and the rain is back, so its time to start doing some of those indoors tasks that I've been putting off for a rainy day. First on my list of priorities is to try and name the bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) specimens I collected and carefully pressed back in July before sending them off for expert judgement.

Fortunately, not all of the 350 odd UK brambles are an ID challenge to a novice like me. One of my favourites is Soft-haired Bramble (Rubus vestitus) because it is very common, so you see it often enough to keep reinforcing its characteristics in the memory, and because it is very tactile with its thick but softly pubescent leaves. The terminal leaflet is also distinctive, typically being nearly circular in outline. Soft-haired Bramble is widespread in both VC31 and 64 and indeed nationally.