Field cow-wheat site – 16th January
After a dull start to the morning, the weather brightened to give a brief interlude of blue sky before the mist swirled in over the coast again. Mild temperatures caused outer layers of clothing to be removed as the participants warmed to their task! Mostly we were clearing the bank of brambles and dogwood, and raking off the cut material to prevent the field cow wheat seedlings being shaded in the early part of their growth. As usual the seeds, which are oval and 3-4mm long, were observed on the surface of the ground in reasonable numbers. Primrose leaves were noticeable, but no flowers were seen this year.
Indoor meeting – 29th January
The meeting began with a preview of the coming season’s programme. This was followed by an opportunity to look at the Interactive Flora of the British Isles, which was produced in May 2004. The information on the DVD is the equivalent of two hefty books, and it has colour photo illustrations of all species as well. After a brief look at the separate parts of the DVD, we tried out the key to identify a conifer. This process gave the same lively debate that we have in the field, especially when both parts of the couplet seemed to be the same. However we persevered and arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. A feature of the Key is that it allows the decisions made in arriving at an identification to be displayed and reviewed, which helps to find errors in the process.
After tea, Colin Pope gave a brief résumé of the results of the Local Change survey from last year. All the results have been sent to the BSBI for analysis and there will be further feedback in due course.
Finally we were able to see a selection of digital photographs of the Grosvenor-Hood flora. Adding watercolour paintings of plant specimens to floras was a popular pastime in the Victorian era, and the copy of Bentham’s Flora, owned by the Brent-Good family is one of the earliest known examples of this form of art. Elizabeth Grosvenor-Hood, who lived at Norton, produced exquisite paintings of both local flowers (thus confirming their location and date of occurrence on the Island) and of specimens sent to her from far and wide. (Two of these paintings are reproduced in The Isle of Wight Flora).
Wood Calamint site – 6th February
A fine morning helped in our clearance of the site this year. Special attention was paid to clearing some of the branches that overhang the lay-by’s and potentially shade the Wood Calamint later in the year.
Conifers in Firestone Copse – 13th March
Under the guidance of Bill Shephard, a group of about 20 members made their way round part of Firestone Copse on a bright and sunny afternoon to find and identify conifers. In total, eleven species and one hybrid were identified. Particular attention was paid to features of twigs, cones and leaves, as characteristics of the whole tree are not always visible unless they are growing as specimen trees. Our sense of smell was tested as we attempted to discern various citrus scents, and new descriptions for cones were arrived at by discussion e.g. “spacing of scales on the cone is like the markings on a football” (Monterey Cypress). An added treat of the afternoon was a sighting of a Red Squirrel in the top of a group of coast redwoods.
Shalfleet Woods – 9th April
The National Trust has recently acquired a new area of land at Newtown and we were able to visit two of the small woodlands to the west of Shalfleet Quay. Both have been used for pheasant rearing until recently. They appear on the Mudge maps of 1793 and are considered to be ancient woodland. One is the shape of a diamond, and appropriately called Diamond Wood. Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) were in flower, and also large quantities of the tiny green-flowered Town Hall Clock (Adoxa moschetallina). The other area we looked at was Farm Woods. Glades of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) were just starting to come into flower and we also found Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), which was not in Diamond Wood.
Saltern Wood – 8th May
Saltern Wood is owned by one of the society’s members and although our primary objective was to look for galls and leaf miners here and on the adjacent saltmarsh, we also took the opportunity to record the woodland plants. The total of plant species was 91, including Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula), naturalised pink Cyclamen (Cyclamen repandum) and Town Hall Clock (Adoxa moschetallina). Mite galls were found on Field Maple (Acer campestre) – three species, on Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) – two species and on Hazel (Corylus avellana), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) and Sea Purslane (Atriplex portulacoides) – one species on each. Oak (Quercus robur) had galls caused by six different cypnid wasps on buds, stamens and twigs. Six types of leaf miners were found on Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Buttercup (Ranunculus sp), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.), Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) and Elm (Ulmus procera).
Grammar’s Common – 22nd May
Grammar’s Common is plantation woodland over acid grassland and heathland. It has been awarded the Forest Stewardship Council’s ‘Woodmark’ award for sustainable forestry, which includes management for wildlife and conservation. The planting is largely Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra) with some Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). During our visit we recorded 122 plant species, including a naturalised Medlar (Mespilus germanica). We subsequently discovered that the owner planted this in 1998. There were a number of sedges including Green-ribbed Sedge (Carex binervis), Spring Sedge (Carex caryophyllea), Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca), Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta), Pill Sedge (Carex pilulifera) and Common Yellow Sedge (Carex viridula ssp.oedocarpa).
Heather (Calluna vulgaris) and Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) are also present. Chaffweed (Anagallis minima) which was rediscovered in another wood on the Island in 2002, is present in a damp ditch along one of the rides, and by the time of our next visit in September should be more noticeable.
Garston’s Down – 4th June
This meeting was arranged as an extra survey following an enquiry from English Nature relating to the occurrence of Burnt Orchid (Orchis ustulata). As it is a good year for Early Gentian (Gentiana anglica) we also took the opportunity to search for it at the sites known from the 1994 survey. Walking up from Newbarn Lane, we located Early Gentian in significantly higher numbers than previously recorded from the old chalk pits adjacent to the footpath. Also in this area were a number of spikes of Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) with white petals rather than the customary pale pink.
Walking over the area where the Burnt Orchid was last seen did not unfortunately result in a sighting, although the habitat appears to be suitable. However we were very pleased to find that there was a good population of Early Gentian on one of the slopes of the down where it had not previously been seen.
Field adjacent to St Lawrence Bank – 11th June
Wight Wildlife has recently acquired this field immediately adjacent to the SSSI where Field Cow-wheat (Melampyrum arvense) grows. One of the objectives for its management is to encourage the re-establishment of arable weeds, including providing a habitat for the Field Cow-wheat to spread. We recorded 46 species among the spring barley crop, including Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kicksia elatine) and Round–leaved Fluellen (Kicksia spuria) neither of which had been recorded in this 1km square since 1986. Another notable find was Many-seeded Goosefoot (Chenopodium polyspermum). It will be interesting to see what else appears in this field in subsequent years.