Field Cow-Wheat site – 15th January
Unfortunately the weather prevented us from carrying out the clearance of the site on the scheduled day, but enough volunteers were available on the following Sunday to remove the coarser growth from the site.
A misplaced billhook caused the cut vegetation at the bonfire site to be carefully raked as its whereabouts were sought. I am pleased to say it reappeared and the owner is considering painting the handle with a bright colour! Jillie Pope discovered a germinating Field Cow-Wheat (Melampyrum arvense) seed, which is illustrated in the accompanying photograph, but there were no early Primroses in flower this year.
Indoor meeting – 21st January
Our indoor meeting is the opportunity to review our recording from the previous year as well as plan meetings for the future. Several suggestions for future places to survey were made and these will be investigated for inclusion in next year’s programme. Colin Pope showed images of a number of unusual plants which had been seen last year and Paul Stanley brought in a specimen of Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum) from Brighstone Forest. We are intending that such displays will be a regular feature at the winter meetings in coming years.
After tea there was a light hearted quiz where teams tried to work out the identity of plants from close-up photographs. Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), photographed at Noar Hill last summer, was not guessed by any of the teams, and the winners shared their prize with us all.
Wood Calamint site clearance – 5th February
We had a warm and sunny morning for this task, but our numbers were rather depleted this year as a result of previous commitments. We managed to clear lay-by 5 thoroughly in the 2 ½ hours we were working. Combined with some further work the estate have agreed to have carried out in late spring, we hope that this will lead to a good flowering year.
Atkies Copse – 11th March
Despite a cool windy day that threatened rain, 18 people arrived for our first recording meeting of the year. Atkies Copse is a small piece of woodland just to the east of Ningwood. The Society holds a long lease on the site and part of the purpose of the visit was to assess whether any management work was necessary and to look at the possibilities of interpretation material for the site.
As the spring had been cold up to this point, the wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) were making a good show but had yet to reach their best. A few bright purple-blue flowers of the Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) were seen and some Hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins were out. Apart from that our recording was done by observing leaves, and a total of 41 plants was the result. Galls, leaf miners and fungi were also listed and Mike Cotterell found a new gall for the Island, Aceria heteronyx on Field Maple (Acer campestre). It is caused by a mite, which produces a warty irregular swelling on the twig.
Chalk Close Copse – 23rd April
Chalk Close Copse East is an ancient woodland (continuously wooded since 1600) just north of the present-day boundary of Parkhurst Forest. It is in private ownership and has been managed under a woodland grant scheme since 1991. Our survey, by invitation of the owner, recorded both the spring flora and galls and leaf miners. We recorded 84 flowering plants, 16 galls, 5 leaf miners and 7 micro-fungi during the afternoon. As the season was quite late the Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) were only just coming into bloom, and rosettes of Early Purple Orchid leaves were beginning to show.
A further 20 indicator plants of ancient woodland were found, including wood Narrow-leaved Lungwort (Pulmonaria longifolia), Goldilocks Buttercup (Ranunculus auricomus), Bitter Vetch (Lathyrus linifolius), Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) and Remote Sedge (Carex remota). Eleven galls associated with Oak (Quercus robur) were found including four in the leaf litter from the previous season; galls from Ash and Field Maple were also found here. One new micro-fungus for the Island was found: a leaf-spot fungus (Elsinoë veneta) on Bramble
Hale Common – 6th May
A series of fields lying immediately east of the Eastern Yar at Hale Common were surveyed during this meeting. The first field we visited proved to be the most interesting and yielded at total of 67 species. Within the field there seemed to be a number of distinct vegetation communities all related to marshy grassland.
In the upper part of the field a large population of Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) was found growing with Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) and Silverweed (Potentilla anserina). In the middle of the field was a very boggy area with Bulrush (Typha latifolia). We decided to make a further visit to the site on 8th July to check for the presence of more species (showery rain interrupted our visit on 6th May) and to determine the vegetation communities.
Bembridge Point – 24th June
Bembridge Point is one of three sand dune systems on the Island, the others being St Helens Duver on the opposite side of the harbour, and Norton Spit at Yarmouth. It is a harsh environment for plants with dry nutrient poor soils that are blown by the wind. The Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) that was planted on St Helens Duver in 1858 to stabilise the dunes has spread and now dominates a considerable area of these dunes also.
Other species for which the site is well-known are Evening Primrose with two species found, Large-flowered Evening Primrose (Oenothera glazioviana) and Fragrant Evening Primrose (O. stricta) and Tree Lupin (Lupinus arboreus), which proved elusive at first but eventually was located within the scrub near the top of the dune.
Six species of Fabaceae (pea flower family) were found. They have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in nodules on their roots, which helps them to survive in a nutrient poor environment. They were rather shrivelled by the hot weather but several were identified by examining their fruits, including Rough Clover (Trifolium scabrum) and Knotted Clover (T. striatum). Sixteen species of grasses were found including Dune Fescue (Vulpia fasciculata), Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius) and Marram (Ammophila arenaria).
The latter is noted for its deep root system that helps to stabilise dunes and for the features of its leaf anatomy that reduce water loss. The stomata, the pores through which water is lost, are sunken in grooves and the leaves roll up to enclose the lower surface.
Redway Farm – 16th July
Redway Farm lies in the Eastern Yar valley and has a variety of interesting habitats including old walls, ponds and the river channel, rush pasture and wet woodland. Over 140 species were seen including quite a number of plants characteristic of wetlands.
The wet woodland had Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre), Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) and Wood Club-rush (Scirpus sylvaticus). On the Island, this striking plant is mostly found at sites along the Eastern Yar valley.
Along various watercourses and around the pond we found well-known plants like Purple- loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula), Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) and Greater Reedmace (Typha latifolia). Less well-known species included Water Chickweed (Myosoton aquaticum), a plant that has declined in abundance since the nineteenth century, Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) and Common Spike Rush (Eleocharis palustris).
The afternoon ended with a sighting of a magnificent newly-emerged specimen of an Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator), perched on gorse by the side of the track. It was much admired and photographed.
Parsonage Farm – 6th August
The fields we surveyed have been taken out of cultivation and extensive tree planting, part of the Forestry Commission’s JIGSAW scheme has taken place. The area has had quite a striking display of arable weeds, particularly Common Stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium) in the last few years. Many of the species were growing low to the ground and required close examination with a hand lens to reveal their identity.
In total, we recorded 104 species including Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kicksia elatine) an arable weed of light soils, Trailing St John’s-wort (Hypericum humifusum) which is associated with bare sandy soils and Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris), which despite its name is relatively scarce on the Island and again is a plant of dry sandy and gravely soils.
Bristle Club-rush (Isolepis setacea) was an interesting find, as it is known from only about a dozen Island locations. It is a relatively insignificant plant and is probably overlooked. A species new to many of us was Small-flowered Crane’s-bill (Geranium pusillum). We were able to compare it with Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill (Geranium molle) growing nearby and learn the differences between them.
Grammars Common – 10th September
This was a follow-up to our earlier visit in May, and it provided a useful opportunity to look for some of our more unusual finds again, as well as to add to the list. Our earlier recording proved to have been very thorough as we only added a further ten vascular plants to our total.
The Chaffweed (Anagallis minima) was found again and this time the distinctive black edges to the underside of the leaf were more readily visible. Velvet Bent (Agrostis canina) a plant of acid soils which we had not noted on our earlier visit, formed very distinctive clumps along the edge of the track just as we entered the older part of the plantation.
The younger areas of the plantation had a good show of heathers – Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) Ling (Calluna vulgaris) and Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) growing in close proximity which enabled us to see all three species that grow on the Island and compare their features.
Saltern Wood – 22nd October
A joint meeting with the British Plant Gall Society at this wood owned by Peter and Helen Danby resulted in our finding a total of twenty plant galls, eleven of which were new for the site. We found 35 leaf miners, only six of which had been recorded there before and 21 micro-fungi of which only three were previously known from the site.
Of particular interest were galls on the stem of Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) caused by the Plume Moth (Adania microdactyla), which had only been recorded once before on the Island, from St George’s Down on 15th September 1938. The Powdery Mildew (Phyllactinia mali) on Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) was a new Island record.
Norton Spit, which was visited at the end of the meeting, yielded a Mite Gall (Eriophyes obiones) on Sea-purslane (Atriplex portulacoides), first recorded in England in 2002, and the cases of a Coleophorid Moth (Coleophora salinella)