Thursday, 3 November 2016

European Botanic Gardens

I August I returned from a trip around European botanic gardens. Starting in the Netherlands I visited gardens in Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. Part of my PhD research the idea was to survey the glasshouses across as many countries as I could manage to add an international element to my thesis. Across 500 quadrats and seven botanic gardens in recorded a total of 199 taxa.

Oxalis corniculata and its allies were the most frequent species recorded and one of the key focuses of my research. I had a very useful meeting with Quentin Groom at Meise Botanic Gardens to discus our respective research on the group. Seeing lots of O. dillenii helped me get to grips with recognising it in the field with its upright growth form, (generally) pale, bright green colour and somewhat 'whorled' appearance.   

Oxalis dillenii,
Charles University Botanical Garden, Prague.

I don't have many images that aren't of Oxalis so I won't add much more to this post other than a few miscellaneous pictures from the trip. Firstly Solanum nigrum the leaves of which seem to get significantly more lobed in Eastern Europe. The plants look very distinct from ours but I can't find any mention of them being taxonomically different.  

Solanum nigrum, Botanická zahrada Praha

My favourite garden was the overgrown and deserted Ogród Botaniczny PAN outside Warsaw. The glasshouses were full of myriad weeds including the only plant of Cannabis sativa I recorded on the trip and the outside areas had species such as Melampyrum nemorosum running wild. 

Cannabis sativa, Ogród Botaniczny PAN

Melampyrum nemorosum with
Graphocephala fennahi,
Ogród Botaniczny PAN

Early 2016 (Old Update)

I've been rather distracted by PhD work and recreational entomology but have made a few botanical outings. An late winter visit to Cwmystwyth to see the luxuriant growths of Asplenium septentrionale on the village walls was a pleasant start to the year even if the plants were somewhat browned. Ceredigion supports very significant populations of this species associated with lead mines and nearby villages. With typical precision Chater's lists 2,150 clumps for the county in 2005 of which 336 were in Cwmystwyth village. 

Asplenium septentrionale,
Cwmystwyth, 2016

A month or so later I finally got round to visiting the famous Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire. The visit was a shameless 'twitch' for the rocks most famous occupant Gagea bohemica. Within the UK this species only grows on these rocks and wasn't discovered until 1965 and was only correctly determined by Ray Woods in 1974. This late discovery may possibly be explained by its early flowering though with Stanner being such a well know site for other rare plants and bryophytes it is still puzzling.

Gagea bohemica,
Stanner Rocks, 2016

My two other botanical happenings have not been field based. Firstly a trip to compete at the enjoyable if chaotic 'Botanical University Challenge' at Kew where Aberystwyth's monochrome and bearded team was beaten by Reading. 

Aberystwyth BUC team,
(L-R) Rob Bellow, Sam Thomas, Henry Dewhirst, Jaques Turner-Moss

Secondly I attended a very informative BSBI workshop on Euphrasia with Chris Metherell at Treborth. I've been meaning to get to one of these 'pre-handbook' workshops for some time and it was definitely worth the drive. A good introduction to the terminology and limitations of Euphrasia identification followed by detailed guidance through herbarium specimens of most of the Welsh species made the genus seem almost manageable. 

Panicoid Grasses, Aberystwyth

I recently returned from a trip around European botanic gardens. Starting in the Netherlands I visited gardens in Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. As I travelled further south and east different species started appearing, most noticeably various panicoid grasses: Digitaria, Echinochloa, and Setaria species. Southerly C4 species adapted to hotter, dryer conditions, these species occur as casuals in the UK but are much more abundant in Central Europe. Arriving back in Aberystwyth I was surprised to see a quartet of panicoid species growing on the pavement by the University Music Centre on Great Darkgate Street.     

Pavement, graffitied wall and
panicoid grasses, SN581815 

Present were Digitaria sanguinalisEchinochloa crus-galliPanicum miliaceumSetaria verticillata. These are four of the most frequent casual panicoid grass species in the UK. I've recorded the commonest, Echinochloa crus-galli in Aberystwyth before but these plants looked slightly different. I considered the very similar E. colona as they were much smaller and lacked awns but settled on stunted and trampled E. crus-galli eventually as the spikelets were slightly too large for E. colona.  

Digitaria sanguinalis, Aberystwyth, SN581815

Echinochloa crus-galli, Aberystwyth, SN581815

Panicum miliaceum, Aberystwyth, SN581815

Setaria verticillata, Aberystwyth, SN581815

All of these species occurring together suggests a shared origin. They are all frequently associated with bird-seed and, while there isn't any obvious bird feeding in the area, some dropped bird-seed still seems a likely source.  

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Tropical Glasshouse Weeds

A quick look around the propagation glasshouses at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales today turned up two weeds of tropical glasshouses that I haven't previously recorded anywhere in Wales. 

Psilotum nudum  and Pilea microphylla are restricted to glasshouses in the UK and have both been covered in my previous post on Ireland

The tropical house and its associated propagation space are both relatively new having been opened in 2007. It may be that associated weeds have taken a while to arrive from various sources but a large influx of material from the Chelsea Flower Show last year may also be responsible for importing both species.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Polypogon arrives in Aberystwyth

Polypogon viridis has arrived in Aberystwyth. An established colony (c. 50 plants) is growing on a paved area adjacent to the Alexandra Road / Rheidol Retail Park roundabout (SN58608167). Given the size of the colony I presume that it actually arrived last year so may already have been noted by other recorders. It also occurs at the University's Fron Goch farm where it currently grows only inside one of the abandoned glasshouses (SN60618259).

Friday, 29 May 2015

Picnic Island

Yesterday evening I visited a place called Picnic Island. A small rocky promontory cut off by the railway on the north bank of the Dyfi Estuary overlooking Ynys-las. Half an hour poking around revealed some nice species in the unpromising looking mown picnic area including Trifolium striatum, T. micranthumKoeleria macrantha, Sagina apetela, Aira caryophyllea and Aphanes arvensis.

Trifolium striatum,
SN626962, VC48

Trampled ground by the path to Penhelig revealed a single plant of Catapodium marinum, lots of Trifolium arvense and Origanum vulgare. Just above high water in an overhang of the cliff two plants of Asplenium obovatum were flourishing.   

Asplenium obovatum & Umbilicus rupestris,
SN626962, VC48

Off now to the National Botanic Garden of Wales to prepare for tomorrow's BSBI meeting.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Circaea alpina

Yesterday evening I took a trip up the Llyfnant Valley to a gorge on the Ceredigion Montgomeryshire border where Circaea alpina can be found. Recent (post 2000) Welsh records of this rare species are from the Llyfnant site and, according to BSBI Maps, Caernarfonshire and Brecknockshire (though recent records are not listed in the county rare plant register). Two historic sites for the species in Merionethshire haven't been updated for some time and there are a number of  (doubtful?) records for Montgomeryshire on NBN Gateway but not BSBI Maps.  

Circaea alpina,
Llyfnant Valley, SN7596, VC46

Having seen the plant in situ (though not yet in flower) I carried on to Corris; one of the historic Merioneth sites. No luck here but I was running out of light and didn't cover much of the site so there's still potential.