Botanical Society News

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter 4 - Autumn 2000 - page 2

Sarah Whild


'May you live in interesting times' is often quoted as either a Chinese curse or blessing and there have certainly been some aspects of this year which could be euphemistically termed 'interesting'.

Our AGM in April of this year was certainly an unusual one, with less botany discussed than at any other Bot. Soc. Meeting, which was rather sad. It was with some relief that we were able to leave the politics behind and actually get out into the field recording. There were a number of first and second county records, detailed later by Alex, and I have to admit that some of these were definitely a lot more interesting than others! So how did our field trips do on the recording front this year?

Our first session was an introduction to the National Vegetation Classification. Chris Walker and I were slightly worried about this session - would anyone turn up? Had we terrified everyone with dark mutterings about quadrats and percentage aerial cover - but no, twelve people turned up to record Poles Coppice quadrats in both grassland (MG5) and woodland (W10). We even found Adder's- tongue, Ophioglossum vulgatum, in the grassland which was a real treat.

A huge thanks to Mark Lawley and the Herefordshire Botanical Society for making the joint meeting at Cleeton St.Mary such a success. Well over twenty people turned up for a stunning afternoon of Greater Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera chlorantha, and Moonwort, Botrychium lunaria. However, this was not even the highlight of the afternoon - we all sat down afterwards to a wonderful WI tea with the best range of cakes and biscuits ever seen in South Shropshire.

The next meeting was at Cole Mere and was also a national BSBI meeting. Twenty people turned up from all over England and we had an excellent time recording. Several rare species were 'ticked' including Elongated Sedge, Carex elongata, after a battle with extremely persistent mosquitoes and very deep mud in the alder carr, and the elusive Least Water-lily, Nuphar pumila, in its only English site. Meadow Thistle, Cirsium dissectum, was splendid, in its only Shropshire site, and we added a number of new species to the site list, including Giant Bellflower, Campanula latifolia. What was most interesting was to see how much the grassland had improved since it was last surveyed just a few years ago. The conservation management introduced by the County Council is definitely yielding results.

The Merrington Green meeting was symptomatic of late July/early August - I tell myself each year that it's not worthwhile having a meeting at this time, but I go ahead anyway! Still, four of us turned up to look at willows and make a full site list for the Wildlife Trust. We searched in vain for the Dark-leaved Willow, Salix myrsinifolia, but got in plenty of practice looking at the common hybrid S. x reichardtii.

It was good to finish on a high point with fourteen people arriving at Hampton Loade. We botanized along the river and through some of the most dismal improved fields in Shropshire! Not a great day for good habitat or rarities, but it was good to make plenty of new records for that square. The highlight was finding a wild pear tree that bore ripe and tasty fruit. The low point? The Lion Inn was closed!

So far this year we have made nearly six thousand records for the county, so many thanks to everyone who sent in records and voucher specimens - the quality of the specimens and written records gets better each year, so please keep up the good work.

I had the privilege of renewing an old acquaintance this year, when I had a call from Charles Sinker not long before the willows day at Merrington Green. Alex and I visited Charles to see his willow herbarium which is a marvellous collection not just from Shropshire but throughout Britain. With Charles's permission we are publishing his guide to willow hybrids in a forthcoming newsletter.

Yellow-berried holly (try saying that six times quickly!) is rapidly becoming a topical subject. Philip Oswald and Peter Sell at Cambridge are looking at the possibility of it being taxonomically distinct from the usual red-berried form of Ilex aquifolium. There is an old record for the yellow form on the Wrekin, by William Withering in 1776. He describes several large trees on the north side. So are they still there? These are wild, native holly trees, not horticultural varieties, so if you find some, please bring at least a couple of fresh sprigs to the meeting or post them to me and I'll send them on to Philip Oswald.


Winter Meeting: December 9th 2000

Our guest speaker this year is Ray Woods, author of the Flora of Radnorshire and Area Officer for the Countryside Council for Wales. Ray's Flora was an amazing achievement because it covered lower plants and fungi as well as the vascular plants. He will be talking on Churchyards - botanical treat or nightmare? This subject will allow Ray to cover all of the lower plants and grassland fungi that are churchyard specialists, but also the range of vascular plants that occur there in unusual horticultural or teratological forms.

Thanks to Sue Townsend at Preston Montford Field Centre for allowing us to hold our meetings there -as always the hospitality is wonderful and we look forward to seeing you on the 9th, Sue!

Don't forget to bring any records you have made! There will be individual record cards for anyone wishing to take them away.


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