Monday, 15 October 2018

BSBI recorders' conference

I have just returned from a thoroughly enjoyable BSBI recorders' conference at FSC Preston Montford near Shrewsbury. The conference is one of the main events in the BSBI calendar, when vice county recorders, taxonomic referees, BSBI staff, active recorders and anyone else interested in the British flora come together to discuss topical botanical issues and learn yet more about plants. The conference this year was very much focused on training and the future of botany in Britain and Ireland, and there was much lively discussion around these. The many workshops included docks and willowherbs, Abies (firs), how to press plants, and introductions to critical taxa such as Taraxacum and brambles. The slides and training material from all the talks and workshops will soon be available from the BSBI website.

We had a useful update on Atlas 2020 from Pete Stroh, BSBI science officer, recent appointee to the new position of English officer and Atlas 2020 coordinator. Pete told us about the likely outputs of the Atlas 2020 project: a printed book, similar to the previous New Atlas; a smaller less dense publication summarising the findings; and an online format, similar to the existing online New Atlas but with greater scope for extra detail on distribution, ecology and conservation. He also set us the deadline of the end of December 2019 for all data entry and validation for Atlas 2020 — if you are sitting on records please therefore think about sending me them this winter!

Local botanists using the BRC's iRecord website or app to collect and store their records will be interested to hear about progress in linking the iRecord database with the BSBI's Distribution Database (DDb). Our own Oli Pescott of BRC gave a talk on iRecord, informing the audience that all being well the two databases will be talking to each other by the New Year. Records imported to the DDb from iRecord will be held in a 'quarantine' area from where they can be liberated by county recorders.

You would think that I might have some nice photographs of botanists conferring by which to remember this excellent event. Not so. Without apology, the only images I collected were of dead plants stuck to paper, and dead roses at that. I had taken with me a stack of Oxon's best and weirdest roses to subject to the scrutiny of the BSBI Rosa referee. I was very pleased to have confirmed specimens from Sydlings Copse Nature Reserve tentatively identified as Rosa obtusifolia x micrantha (third from left below) and R. micrantha x rubiginosa (=R. x bigeneris) (second from left below). Both are rare roses and new county records. The former is also at Aston Rowant, as reported last autumn. Also confirmed was R. sherardii x canina (=R. x rothschildii, first on left below) at the reserve, making it one of the best sites for roses in the county. The referee was less convinced by my several possible R. obtusifolia x arvensis (=R. x rouyana) (below right). A really odd rose that had completely stumped me also proved unnameable (right). Such intractable specimens are part of the fun and frustration of roses.

The next BSBI event is the Annual Exhibition Meeting on 17th November. Will you be coming along?

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!"