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.