Friday, 22 April 2016

Spring is finally here!

Up in the woods in Denbighshire this week, leaves are beginning to appear. Only just out, can you recognise these? I'm not sure I would if I didn't know the spot and wasn't looking for it specifically (scroll down for a more unfurled picture)!

I love this time of year when the woodland spring flowers really are coming out. Bluebells are now beginning to open in their masses, the verges of the A55 are yellow with cowslips, the primroses are everywhere and I do love wood anemones. 

Wood anemone - Anemone nemorosa
 Sadly I can't join the Merioneth naturalists on their visit to Coed Dolbebin today, and I also missed the BSBI meeting at the Great Orme last weekend. But nevertheless the field season is beginning and I do hope to get out a lot more and meet plenty of Welsh botanists in the field this year.

And that seedling I saw at the top of the page? Scroll down if you want to see - one of our really distinctive and certainly not a common plant...

Herb Paris - Paris quadrifolia

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bright eyes at Treborth...

On Saturday I was amongst a group of botanists - apparently one of us was the 100th to participate in Chris Metherell's introduction to Eyebrights (Euphrasia).

With no prior knowledge of the genus, I was a little nervous about the course, but I was delighted to find the day whizzed past.

Chris gave us an introduction, which largely explained how to look at eyebrights - and there really is a great deal of detail. I have a much clearer idea of the distinction between upper cauline leaves and lower floral leaves, but I think I still need practice in looking at the tips of leaf teeth to discriminate between acute, acuminate and aristate! However, the new keys that Chris has produced take you through which are the most important features.

After the introduction we spent the middle part of the day (with a break for lunch) looking at various herbarium specimens - some fairly old and brown from the Bangor University herbarium, and some still relatively green from Chris' own herbarium.

I began to really look forward to summer, when I hope to test my new-found skills in the field - and I hope that many of the characters will be much easier to determine on fresh specimens.

We were lucky enough to be using the teaching lab at Treborth Botanic Garden, a place familiar to Bangor alumni and locals. And this course was very much aimed at locals, with most of the participants coming from North Wales (a few from North West England). Chris focussed on the species we would be likely to encounter in Wales.

A big thank-you to Chris - who left us all full of enthusiasm - and we hope to practice our skills in the field before long. I for one am also looking forward very much to the publication of the new Euphrasia handbook, hopefully within the next year.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Field meetings 2016

It's been a few weeks now since the Yearbook arrived on my doorstep, and there are a great selection of field meetings for this year. For me it is now a matter of juggling my calendar with my family to decide how many I can manage to get to.

My first priority will be the Welsh AGM (12th-15th July), which is always a great event. This year it's down in Brecon, and there is a great offer for accommodation, with a single price £160 for a room for up to four nights - a great price if you can stay all week and even better if you can share a room. There will be some great excursions - chances to explore the Brecon Beacons or the canal and Wye, and some special sites including Stanner Rocks and Vicarage Meadows. For more details click here. 

I'm organising a couple of training meetings in Wales - there may still be one or two places on the beginners' Euphrasia workshop on 12th March (and more places on 13th if there are any improvers out there?). However, the Drypoteris course in October (1st-2nd) is now fully booked - although I will add names to a waiting list if desired. There is also a grass training weekend in Glamorgan with the excellent Arthur Copping (25th-26th June) which I suspect will provide more than the advertised introduction, and a brambles weekend at the end of July (29th-31st) in Denbighshire which should be very interesting.

The recording weeks in Merionethshire (22-25 July) and Carmarthenshire (4th-11th July) are always very enjoyable - and for me, a great chance to keep my field skills polished up.

Hopefully I will see plenty of you at some of these meetings - but do send the organisers an email if you are interested and haven't done so yet!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year Plant Hunt 2016

Despite a much less than pleasant weather forecast, I met Georgina and Martyn at Acton Park in Wrexham to begin our attempt at the New Year Plant Hunt. 

Plant Hunt Selfie!
The rain stayed away for a few hours; we found a number of plants around the edges of the park and the surrounding area.  Can anyone help identify this garden marigold wandering into Acton Park? 

After a lunch break we decided to move on a bit to the Wrexham Industrial estate, which did indeed provide more variety; including four species of Vicia (tetrasperma, cracca, hirsuta and sativa; also Medicago lupulina and arabica) and also Euronymus europaeus. By the end we had totted up 57 species, not a record for Wales but satisfying nevertheless. The top family was unsurprisingly Asteraceae with 14 species; second place more surprisingly was Fabaceae with 7 and third was Brassicaceae with 6. We also found four grasses open and flowering (Poa annua, Arrhenatherum elatius, Dactylis glomerata and Lolium perenne). My photos are not up to much but here is a selection as a collage... 

For more information or to take part in your own New Year Plant Hunt (up to the 4th Jan) see BSBI News and Views

Other Welsh hunts have been Tim Rich with 59 species in Cardiff; John Warren with 27 in Aberystwyth, and a whopping 67 in the Chepstow area from the Monmouthshire Botany Group. 

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Plant Hunt

Happy New Year! Would anyone local-ish like to join me tomorrow on Saturday 2nd January at Acton Park in Wrexham for a New Year Plant Hunt? The aim is to find as many plants in flower as possible in three hours, although we could also do some general recording. 

Meet at 11 am at SJ345 518. Let me know if you plan to come (if the weather is appalling we'll cancel or possibly postpone to the Sunday. I'm prepared to go in moderate weather but not driving snow or rain! Warm clothes and thermoses?

If you're not local why not have your own hunt? For more information see the BSBI publicity blog

Friday, 18 December 2015

Happy Christmas

And the very best of seasonal good wishes for the New Year too. I thought I'd bring some highlights of Welsh botany and hopefully inspire a little winter activity.

I received a nomination for the BSBI Recorder of the Year (Wales), for Martyn Stead. Martyn has been a dedicated recorder for several years, active in several of the North Wales counties. This year he has been working a lot in Denbighshire and has accumulated over 13,000 records, of which over 8,000 are new tetrad records  and over 500 are new hectad records since the year 2000. Delyth Williams, vice-county recorder for Denbighshire, says that Martin's records are accurate and dependable, and he is also conscientious about following protocols (for example providing voucher specimens or photographs for uncommon species). This is a new award (sorry Martyn, there's no prize) but I'd be very keen to receive nominations for the 2016 award in due course. 

It has been a busy year for Welsh botanists, with over 60,000 records from 2015 already on the DDb. As well as making new records, there has clearly been a lot of work on computers, as an additional 250,000 records from before 2015 have been uploaded to the DDb. This is brilliant, as it lets us see where the gaps are for Atlas 2020, our major recording focus (for more on the Atlas see 

I thought I'd show you some maps of seasonal species. The coloured dots represent different date classes - blue and pink are those since 2000. Ideally we'd like to re-find all records that are older than 2000. These are both good species to record in the winter - Norway Spruce and other conifers can be quickly recorded on a bracing walk through the forest while you walk off your Christmas excesses, and Mistletoe can be spotted while the trees are bare. I wonder how many of the red dots could be filled in over the Christmas holidays (don't forget to send records to your vice-county recorder - contact me if you don't know who they are). For more maps, visit the BSBI's database at

Distribution map for Norway spruce,
Picea abies (also known as Christmas tree).

Distribution map for mistletoe,
Viscum album.
I'm also planning to join in the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt, which has been growing in recent years. For more information, see I'd be interested to hear about as many Welsh plant hunts as possible. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Golden dock in Montgomery

Yesterday I joined the Montgomeryshire Flora Group on one of their regular meetings. We saw several scarce species including golden dock Rumex maritimus (not usually a maritime species despite the name), green figwort Scrophularia umbrosa and great yellow-cress Rorippa amphibia. R. maritimus and S. umbrosa are rare plants in Montgomeryshire and indeed in Wales, although they are not scarce in Britain. In fact all these species have their main distribution in England, and so are interesting finds to those of us used to Wales. This sort of day highlights the differences between regions and therefore the value of the county rare plant registers. Thanks to Kate Thorne and the rest of the group for an interesting day out.

Golden dock Rumex maritimus