The enigmatic Mr Henry Spare

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter 6 - Spring 2002 - page 11, 14-16

Alex Lockton & Sarah Whild

 

Following on from "The Uncertain Legacy" (Autumn 2000) and "In Defence of Mary McGhie" (Spring 2001), it might be worthwhile to explore some more of the "interesting" records for Shropshire. Remember, we don't delete records or change them irrevocably, instead we mark things "unconfirmed" so that automatic analyses by computer reflect as accurately as possibly what we believe to be a correct account of the county's natural history.

Mark Lawley's article has not persuaded us to restore any of Mary McGhie's dubious records. The only one that seems controversial is the Juniper. This shrub would certainly have been common enough in Shropshire at some point after the last ice age. The question is, did it persist long enough for Miss McGhie to spot it? The balance of evidence seems to suggest not, and we certainly hope that there is no conservation plan to reintroduce it. Philip Oswald emailed to point out that there is another unlikely-sounding record in the list, that was missed:-

"I was particularly interested by the two articles about Mary McGhie, about whom I was unable to find out anything for 'Ecological Flora' (see p. 27, col. 2). One of her records which I now think MUST be a wrong identification is that of Cynoglossum germanicum, which I see you list among "garden plants, or species which can only have been naturalised" and which I did not mention at all on p. 28 (I'm not sure why now). Even Mark Lawley makes no attempt to defend this one. Charles Darwin made the same mistake, of which more another time!"

P.H. Oswald, 11th November 2001

Cynoglossum germanicum, Green Hound's-tongue, is a Red Data Book species in Britain, with only four dots on the national distribution map. It is a woodland plant that occurs on chalk and limestone. The Shropshire dot - Mary McGhie's - is somewhat isolated from the rest, being out to the north-west, but not so far that it could be eliminated purely on grounds of geographical range. As for ecology, it is unfortunately listed as occurring as a casual on roadsides, so we cannot strike it off for that reason alone. The only justification I can put forward for rejecting it is that it has always been so rare, and so important, that if any botanist with the skill to recognise it had found it in a new county, they would surely have collected voucher specimens and submitted them to referees. I think this is no more than a simple error for Cynoglossum officinale, Common Hound's-tongue, which does indeed occur in the neighbourhood of Ludlow.

 

Henry Spare

The main subject of this article, however, is Henry Spare (1793-1864), also from the Ludlow area. Philip Oswald devotes several column inches to him in Sinker's Flora (pp. 27-28), and suggests that he may have been a farmer or a gardener at Oakly Park. He questions the records of Ophrys sphegodes, Sesleria caerulea and Salvia pratensis, and points out that there isn't a single sedge in Spare's list - often the least favourite group of plants for an untrained botanist. There are other records of Spare's that could be questioned. Take, for instance, his record of Pyrola rotundifolia, Round-leaved Wintergreen, at Whitcliffe. The Common Wintergreen, P. minor, was seen there by Thomas Salwey, Andrew Bloxam (both ca. 1841), William Beckwith (ca. 1880), George Claridge Druce (1892), and more recently by J. Vaycey (1962 & 1965)and S.R. Turner (1971). Intermediate Wintergreen, P. intermedia, was recorded by Frederick Westcott (1842) and William Phillips (1889, conf. Arthur Bennett). But Henry Spare got neither of these, just the much rarer P. rotundifolia.

Spare's records of Dianthus plumarius around Ludlow can be accounted for and almost excused. Virtually every prominent botanist in Britain for 300 years made this mistake until Eric Clement pointed out that it was actually Silene schafta (BSBI News 85 (2000) pp. 46-47). We do not believe his Wood Bitter-vetch, Vicia orobus, which seems likely to be an error for Vicia sylvatica. His Melampyrum sylvaticum is undoubtedly M. pratense. One that is particularly troubling is Shining Pondweed, Potamogeton lucens, at Oakly Park. This has been recorded in Shropshire several times, but only one record is accepted, and that is probably from a canal, which tells us nothing about the native flora of ponds and rivers. On balance, it seems best to consider Spare's record to be wrong, but this issue is worth studying further.

It seems unlikely that anyone could misidentify Cladium mariscus, but equally unlikely that it could have occurred as a native species at Oakly Park. Henry Spare might not have been averse to recording plants that were introduced - Oxalis corniculata, Lonicera caprifolium - and it is altogether possible that C. mariscus could have been planted around ornamental lakes. Anchusa officinalis, Alkanet, is sometimes grown in gardens, but has never been recorded in the wild in Britain, according to Stace (1997). Spare's is the only record for it in Shropshire: a mistake for Evergreen Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens, perhaps?

Philip Oswald points out that Spare's Picris echioides, Bristly Oxtongue, record would be a first for the county. The only other person, historically, to have recorded it was Griffith Griffiths (1870), who is definitely a suitable subject for a future article of this sort. In 1975 Henry Hand made the first proper record for this species, and it has been found in a number of places since then, usually in very disturbed and industrial areas. If it is reasonable to reject anything by Henry Spare that is not actually likely, then the Cerastium arvense, Apera spica-venti, Phalaris canariensis, Thalictrum flavum, Oxalis corniculata, Sanguisorba officinalis, Hordeum secalinum, Alopecurus myosuroides and Vicia lathyroides should perhaps all go, as well.

A complete list of Henry Spare's records is given below, for readers to consider and comment on if they so choose. Records we have marked unconfirmed are enclosed in square brackets.

 

    • Nymphaea alba White Water-lily Hopton Castle SO3678
    • Clematis vitalba Traveller's Joy Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Ranunculus arvensis Corn Buttercup Oakly Park SO4876
    • Adonis annua Pheasant's Eye Ludlow SO5175
    • Aquilegia vulgaris Columbine Oakly Park SO4876
    • Thalictrum flavum Common Meadow-rue Oakly Park SO4876
    • Papaver somniferum Opium Poppy Bromfield SO4876
    • P. rhoeas Common Poppy Ludlow SO5175
    • P. argemone Prickly Poppy Ludlow SO5175
    • Chelidonium majus Greater Celandine Priors Halton SO4975
    • Parietaria judaica Pellitory-of-the-Wall Bromfield Churchyard SO4876
    • Chenopodium bonus-henricus Good King Henry Bromfield SO4876
    • C. polyspermum Many-seeded Goosefoot Ludlow SO5175
    • Moehringia trinervia Three-nerved Sandwort Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Cerastium arvense Field Mouse-ear Oakly Park SO4876]
    • Scleranthus annuus Annual Knawel Bromfield SO4876
    • Spergularia rubra Sand Spurrey Bromfield SO4876
    • [Dianthus plumarius Pink Ludlow Castle SO5074]
    • [D. plumarius Pink Ludford SO5173]
    • Dianthus deltoides Maiden Pink Ludlow SO5175
    • D. deltoides Maiden Pink Ludford SO5173
    • Persicaria bistorta Common Bistort Ludlow SO5175
    • Hypericum tetrapterum Square-stalked St. John's-wort Oakly Park SO4876
    • H. humifusum Trailing St. John's-wort Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • H. pulchrum Slender St. John's-wort Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Helianthemum nummularium Common Rock-rose Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Viola lutea Yellow Mountain Pansy Titterstone Clee SO5977
    • Arabidopsis thaliana Thale Cress Bromfield SO4876
    • Barbarea vulgaris Winter-cress Oakly Park SO4876
    • Coronopus squamatus Swine-cress Ludlow SO5175
    • Brassica nigra Black Mustard Ludlow SO5175
    • [Pyrola rotundifolia Round-leaved Wintergreen Whitcliffe Wood SO4974]
    • Primula x polyantha False Oxlip Oakly Park SO4876
    • Lysimachia nummularia Creeping-Jenny Oakly Park SO4876
    • L. vulgaris Yellow Loosestrife Oakly Park SO4876
    • Anagallis tenella Bog Pimpernel Felton Farm SO5076
    • Sedum telephium Orpine Titterstone Clee SO5977
    • S. dasyphyllum Thick-leaved Stonecrop Ludlow SO5175
    • Saxifraga granulata Meadow Saxifrage Oakly Park SO4876
    • S. hypnoides Mossy Saxifrage Titterstone Clee SO5977
    • S. tridactylites Rue-leaved Saxifrage Oakly Park SO4876
    • Chrysosplenium oppositifolium Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage Oakly Park SO4876
    • Parnassia palustris Grass of Parnassus Felton Farm SO5076
    • Sanguisorba officinalis Great Burnet Oakly Park SO4876
    • Alchemilla vulgaris agg. Lady's-mantle Oakly Park SO4876
    • Ornithopus perpusillus Bird's-foot Shelderton SO4077
    • [Vicia orobus Wood Bitter-vetch Whitcliffe Wood SO4974]
    • V. tetrasperma Smooth Tare Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • V. lathyroides Spring Vetch Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Melilotus officinalis Ribbed Melilot Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Trifolium arvense Hare's-foot Clover Ludlow SO5175
    • Genista tinctoria Dyer's Greenweed Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • G. anglica Petty Whin Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Myriophyllum spicatum Spiked Water-milfoil Oakly Park SO4876
    • Epilobium palustre Marsh Willowherb Oakly Park SO4876
    • Chamerion angustifolium Rosebay Willowherb Oakly Park SO4876
    • Euphorbia cyparissias Cypress Spurge Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Polygala vulgaris Common Milkwort Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Oxalis corniculata Procumbent Yellow-sorrel Oakly Park SO4876
    • Geranium pratense Meadow Crane's-bill Oakly Park SO4876
    • G. lucidum Shining Crane's-bill Oakly Park SO4876
    • Erodium cicutarium Common Stork's-bill Bromfield SO4876
    • Sanicula europaea Sanicle Oakly Park SO4876
    • Conopodium majus Pignut Oakly Park SO4876
    • Aegopodium podagraria Ground-elder Ludlow Castle SO5074
    • Silaum silaus Pepper-saxifrage Oakly Park SO4876
    • Conium maculatum Hemlock Oakly Park SO4876
    • Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury Oakly Park SO4876
    • Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow-wort Downton Hall SO5279
    • Hyoscyamus niger Henbane Shelderton SO4077
    • Calystegia sepium agg. Hedge Bindweed Ludlow SO5175
    • Menyanthes trifoliata Bogbean Poles Farm, Bromfield SO4674
    • Lithospermum officinale Common Gromwell Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • L. arvense Field Gromwell Ludlow SO5175
    • Echium vulgare Viper's Bugloss Shelderton SO4077
    • Symphytum officinale Common Comfrey Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • S. officinale Common Comfrey Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Anchusa officinalis Alkanet Oakly Park SO4876]
    • A. arvensis Bugloss Ludlow SO5175
    • Borago officinalis Borage Oakly Park SO4876
    • Lycopus europaeus Gipsywort Oakly Park SO4876
    • Salvia pratensis Meadow Clary Oakly Park SO4876
    • Plantago media Hoary Plantain Oakly Park SO4876
    • Verbascum lychnitis White Mullein Downton Hall SO5279
    • Cymbalaria muralis Ivy-leaved Toadflax Ludlow Castle SO5074
    • Veronica scutellata Marsh Speedwell Oakly Park SO4876
    • Melampyrum pratense Common Cow-wheat Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • [M. sylvaticum Small Cow-wheat Whitcliffe Wood SO4974]
    • Pedicularis palustris Marsh Lousewort Oakly Park SO4876
    • Pinguicula vulgaris Common Butterwort Downton Hall SO5279
    • Campanula patula Spreading Bellflower Oakly Park SO4876
    • C. trachelium Nettle-leaved Bellflower Oakly Park SO4876
    • Jasione montana Sheep's-bit Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Galium odoratum Woodruff Oakly Park SO4876
    • Lonicera caprifolium Perfoliate Honeysuckle Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Adoxa moschatellina Moschatel Oakly Park SO4876
    • Valeriana officinalis Common Valerian Oakly Park SO4876
    • V. dioica Marsh Valerian Oakly Park SO4876
    • Dipsacus fullonum Wild Teasel Oakly Park SO4876
    • Succisa pratensis Devil's-bit Scabious Oakly Park SO4876
    • Scabiosa columbaria Small Scabious Oakly Park SO4876
    • Serratula tinctoria Saw-wort Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Centaurea cyanus Cornflower Oakly Park SO4876
    • Leontodon saxatilis Lesser Hawkbit Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Picris echioides Bristly Oxtongue Stanton Lacy SO4978]
    • Tragopogon pratensis Goat's-beard Oakly Park SO4876
    • Lactuca virosa Greater Lettuce Stanton Lacy SO4978
    • Mycelis muralis Wall Lettuce Ludlow SO5175
    • Hieracium sabaudum a hawkweed Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Inula helenium Elecampane Oakly Park SO4876
    • Pulicaria dysenterica Common Fleabane Oakly Park SO4876
    • Solidago virgaurea Goldenrod Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Tanacetum parthenium Feverfew Oakly Park SO4876
    • Achillea ptarmica Sneezewort Oakly Park SO4876
    • Anthemis arvensis Corn Chamomile Oakly Park SO4876
    • Chrysanthemum segetum Corn Marigold Oakly Park SO4876
    • Petasites hybridus Butterbur Oakly Park SO4876
    • Bidens tripartita Trifid Bur-marigold Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Potamogeton lucens Shining Pondweed Oakly Park SO4876]
    • P. perfoliatus Perfoliate Pondweed Oakly Park SO4876
    • Juncus squarrosus Heath Rush Oakly Park SO4876
    • J. bufonius Toad Rush Oakly Park SO4876
    • Luzula pilosa Hairy Wood-rush Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Eriophorum vaginatum Hare's-tail Cottongrass Felton Farm SO5076
    • Eleocharis palustris Common Spike-rush Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Cladium mariscus Great Fen-sedge Oakly Park SO4876]
    • Nardus stricta Mat-grass Oakly Park SO4876
    • Vulpia myuros Rat's-tail Fescue Oakly Park SO4876
    • Catabrosa aquatica Whorl-grass Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Sesleria caerulea Blue Moor-grass Oakly Park SO4876]
    • Glyceria maxima Reed Sweet-grass Oakly Park SO4876
    • Aira praecox Early Hair-grass Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Phalaris canariensis Canary-grass Oakly Park SO4876]
    • Agrostis stolonifera Creeping Bent Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Apera spica-venti Loose Silky-bent Oakly Park SO4876]
    • Alopecurus geniculatus Marsh Foxtail Oakly Park SO4876
    • A. myosuroides Black-grass Oakly Park SO4876
    • Bromus secalinus Rye Brome Oakly Park SO4876
    • Hordeum secalinum Meadow Barley Oakly Park SO4876
    • Phragmites australis Common Reed Oakly Park SO4876
    • Sparganium erectum Branched Bur-reed Oakly Park SO4876
    • Typha latifolia Great Reedmace Oakly Park SO4876
    • T. angustifolia Lesser Bulrush Oakly Park SO4876
    • Narthecium ossifragum Bog Asphodel Titterstone Clee SO6077
    • Allium ursinum Ramsons Oakly Park SO4876
    • Iris pseudacorus Yellow Iris Oakly Park SO4876
    • "Orchis latifolia" a marsh orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • Epipactis helleborine Broad-leaved Helleborine Oakly Park SO4876
    • Neottia nidus-avis Bird's-nest Orchid Whitcliffe Wood SO4974
    • Listera ovata Common Twayblade Oakly Park SO4876
    • Spiranthes spiralis Autumn Lady's-tresses Priors Halton SO4975
    • Platanthera bifolia Lesser Butterfly-orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • Gymnadenia conopsea Fragrant Orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • Dactylorhiza fuchsii Common Spotted-orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • Orchis mascula Early-purple Orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • O. morio Green-winged Orchid Oakly Park SO4876
    • [Ophrys sphegodes Early Spider-orchid Priors Halton SO4975]

 

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