Book Review

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter - Spring 1999 - page 13


A botanical stroll through north Herefordshire by Mark Lawley. Herefordshire Botanical Society, 1999.

Price 4 (inc. p&p), from Heather Colls, The Steppes Cottage, Jingle St., Wonastow, Monmouth, Gwent, NP5 4DL (cheques to "Herefordshire Botanical Society").

This is the second publication from the HBS stable, following in the tradition established with The Bygone Botanists of Herefordshire. Both are seemingly anonymous and undated, but avid readers of the bryologists report in this newsletter will almost certainly spot this as Mark Lawley's work, as revealed by his charming idiosyncratic style, historical perspective and broad range of natural history interests. Neither publication has an ISBN number or date which, combined with their anonymity, make them a nightmare for any bookseller or librarian to catalogue. However, in spite of these deficiencies, this is a publication worthy of acquisition for anyone with an interest in south Shropshire botanists of yore.

A botanical stroll, however, is not just a curiosity. Half of its 74 pages is a rambling account of a visit in 1868 by the Woolhope and Caradoc Clubs to Titterstone Clee in south Shropshire, with the bulk of the text being taken up by detours into the biographies and botanical finds of the various members present - mostly into northern Herefordshire, which explains the title. The market town of Ludlow was once an important regional centre, and its naturalists have clearly never given up the hope that it could be the centre of Ludlowshire, so the book refreshingly ignores such geopolitical elements as county boundaries and even the Welsh border, every now and then.

The latter half of the Stroll, however, is much more conventional in that it comprises an annotated checklist of flora of Herefordshire, v.c. 36, omitting stoneworts but including mosses and liverworts. It is therefore of considerable value to all who are involved in natural history and ecology in the county - and it is as welcome as it is overdue.

The Herefordshire Botanical Society has been working towards a new county Flora for over ten years now, and the record-collecting is well advanced. From our experience in Shropshire since the launch of Sinker's Flora in 1985, however, the idea of interim reports is very much to be welcomed. It allows outside authorities to comment on - and frequent correct - the data, and also to contribute new information. For example, I noticed Lupinus polyphyllus in the checklist; this is often erroneously recorded on lists I receive for Shropshire, but the plant invariably turns out to be the hybrid L. x regalis. Neither Clapham, Tutin & Moore, nor Francis Rose in The Wild Flower Key, mentions the hybrid at all so this is an easy mistake to make.

All in all, this rather diverse publication is a scholarly work worth a place on any serious botanists' shelf, so keep up the good work Mark. Just don't hide your light too far under your bushel!

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