Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Little Milton Square Bash

Alien grasses sown for game, Ecinochloa crus-gali, Panicum milliaceum and Zea mays
It is some time since I posted on here, which is a shame, but the season (work) had the better of me for a while. However, this weekend I managed to get out again with local botanists and gather some much needed records. For those of you who might have missed my botanical waffle, here's an account of what we got up to.

Now that SP42 is looking better recorded I thought I'd turn my attention to another under-recorded area, roughly the Oxfordshire part of the Thame catchment, from a few miles south of Oxford east to Thame and pretty much all the way to the foot of the Chilterns. As it is mostly arable land with very few nature reserves or similar sites one can appreciate why it might not appeal, but it still needs doing. A few botanists have been working on it, but it is a large area and there isn't much time before the end of the recording period for Atlas 2020. Wanting to contribute to this effort, therefore, six of us met at Little Milton where we were very kindly treated to tea and freshly baked cake by resident botanist Liz Powell. The tetrad (SP60A) has had some recording already so I had hoped to make it toward Stadhampton (SU69E) in order to cover new ground. Hardly surprisingly we didn't get that far, but we added a lot to the tetrad total for Little Milton, getting it up to 288 taxa. Of course there were a host of the usual garden escapes but the total also includes some more unusual and interesting plants.

The first species of interest were along the A329, where we had Torilis nodosa (knotted hedge parsley), a characteristic plant of dry, well-mown verges, and Lactuca virosa (great lettuce). The latter is a colonist of roads that is still relatively uncommon in Oxfordshire but that is everywhere if one botanises further south or east. Botanising late in the summer we were also able to identify damsons (Prunus domestica subsp. institia) rather than having to leave bushes unsatisfactorily as wild plum (P. domestica).