Thursday, 20 September 2018

Botanising in Northants

The new recorders for Northamptonshire (VC32), Alyson Freeman and Brian Laney, have asked me to publicise botanical goings-on over the border this weekend. If you would be interested in joining them recording the Northants parts of Banbury this Sunday 30th and Middleton Chaney and Chacombe on Monday 1st October, then please contact Alyson via for further information. Unfortunately I cannot be there but it'd be good to have an Oxon contingent to support our neighbours in their recording.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Botanical finds this summer

Botanical activity over the last couple of months has been generating a lot of records and some fantastic finds. Activity has included two recording meetings organised by myself, an 'official' BSBI field outing to Nettlebed Common, as well as numerous other formal and informal recording meetings and other kinds of survey undertaken by local botanists. As it is about time that I posted something, I thought I would blog about some of the highlights.

The biggest surprise of the season (so far) is the double re-appearance of the nationally scarce Althaea officinalis (marsh mallow) in the county, with one site at Otmoor and the other by the Thames near Shiplake. Usually a plant of brackish marshes at coastal sites, A. officinalis was reported by Druce as appearing in a ditch at Long Meadow near Iffley/Oxford in the 1830s, and was more recently recorded as a casual from the Oxford tip. Where these newly recorded plants could have come from is a mystery. The Otmoor plant appeared a few years following the cutting of a hedge by a ditch on the RSPB reserve, and could have appeared from buried seed. Perhaps more plausibly as it is growing by a footpath, it could have been accidentally introduced from a visiting birder (it also grows at RSPB Minsmere). If it were an introduction, it seems odd that it should appear simultaneously with another plant at the other end of the county, but then it has never been known from Otmoor and is the habitat at either site right?

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Keys to grasses in Oxfordshire

Above: Ruth's multi-access key to the grasses of Oxfordshire developed using the Field Studies Council's Tomorrow's Biodiversity software. Below: Ruth's guide to grasses on iNaturalist.

Local botanist Camilla Lambrick has asked me to advertise some really great resources put together by herself and Ruth Ripley to aid with the identification of grasses in the county. Camilla says:

"Have you ever been frustrated that the grass you keyed out only grows in Shetland, or you have forgotten which a lemma is? Now, like buses, not one but three new keys to the grasses of Oxfordshire are available, developed by Ruth Ripley and illustrated with clear pictures:
  • The simplest to use of the three keys is the one on iNaturalist, available as a tablet or mobile app.  In this key you can choose easy features and instantly see photos of all the possible species. If you click on a photo you will find more information and photos.
  • A second online but more complex multi-access type key uses the Field Studies Council Tomorrow's Biodiversity software, available as a test version. This key gives a wide choice of features to compare together. This key illustrates the possibilities of the software — if you find it useful and would like it developed further please tell us!
  • A conventional dichotomous key by Camilla Lambrick can be found here. This key uses more technical terms, but it has a glossary.
None of the three keys are fully complete with recent introductions and cereal crops, but we hope to add to them. We would welcome your feedback and photos. Please email Ruth or Camilla.

Good hunting!"

Monday, 21 May 2018

Spring Atlas recording

May is always a very exciting time of year, and in the few weeks since I last posted there have been two Atlas recording meetings which I have organised, several ad hoc outings of my own, and I have had records from other botanists out recording themselves. I therefore thought I'd share some of the interesting findings from this early part of the season. If you've sent me records or participated in recording events and would like to see how your contribution has added to Atlas progress in the county, then I have updated the interactive Atlas map. I find this a useful tool for targeting my own recording and tracking progress and will update it every week or so.

The target areas for the last couple of my meetings have been rather underwhelming, Tusmore Park (SP53) this last Sunday being very sterile, and Fringford (SP62) two weeks ago also uninteresting. However, without much to keep one in a square there is the opportunity to range more widely and collect a greater number of records from a larger area. Beyond Tusmore on Sunday, we found many nice grassland plants along the A43, with Anthyllis vulneraria (kidney vetch), Briza media (quaking grass), Hippocrepis comosa (horseshoe vetch) and Lithospermum officinale (common gromwell) all new to the Oxon part of SP53. Also new to the Oxon part of the hectad was Carex distans (distant sedge), an uncommon plant of floodplain meadows and fens, found here by a carp pond by the brook that forms the boundary with Northants. It is also a plant of saltmarshes, and within the pond was a very surprising saltmarsh species, Bolboschoenus maritimus (sea club-rush), a county first. It may have been planted, but it is a very unusual choice of planting! It has been known from brackish marshes inland in other parts of England, such as at Marcham in VC 22, but never in VC 23. Salt-loving plants in Oxon are confined to the edges of salted roads, and indeed along the A43 we found the under-recorded halophytes Cochlearia danica (Danish scurvy-grass), Pucinellia distans (reflexed saltmarsh grass) and Spergularia marina (lesser sea spurrey).