Botany Group Meetings held in 2007

Field Cow-wheat site clearance – 14th January

The Field Cow-wheat site is in a fairly sheltered position on the top of the Undercliff. Frequently we have a pleasantly warm and sunny morning (for January) when we do our annual clearance, and this year was no exception and we managed to clear the banks thoroughly.
Wood Calamint site clearance – 4th February

A good turnout of volunteers, combined with a warm sunny morning, allowed both lay-bys to be cleared thoroughly this year. We are hoping that this will benefit the flowering of the plant later in the year and its progress will be monitored towards the end of August.

North Afton Down – 18th March

A rather cool and showery afternoon did not deter us walking up the north side of Afton Down in search of Dwarf Sedge (Carex humilis). This plant was recorded for the first time on the Island last summer by Paul Stanley. It is an early flowerer and we were hoping to see flowering spikes. We had mapped its position using a GPS receiver last summer, but it was much less conspicuous in March and it took some time to re-locate it. Flowering spikes were found but were inconspicuous. We also looked at the chalk grassland community in which this plant is found, and attempted the identification of plants using their vegetative characteristics, using labelled photocopies of leaves to assist us.

Corf Camp – 14th April

A turnout of over 30 people enjoyed the spring woodland at Corf Camp on a warm and sunny afternoon. We walked through the woodland tracks and glades to the saltmarsh at the edge of the creek and then back via a meadow.

A considerable amount of interest was generated by clump of violets that had deep mauve petals and striking creamy yellow coloured spurs. It was initially thought to be Heath Dog Violet (Viola canina) but on further investigation it proved to be the Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) with unusual colouration.

Twelve galls were recorded together, five of them on oak. Five leaf miners and six microfungi were also found. None were new species for the Island but nineteen of them were new for this site.

Froglands Lane and Millers Lane – 29th April

These two tracks in the vicinity of Carisbrooke Castle formed part of a circular walk to look at the flora associated with them, to provide additional information for the HEAP project.

Froglands Lane proved to have a particularly diverse flora along its northern side including Redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) in the hedgerow and at least 12 other woody species. Wood Goldilocks (Ranunculus auricomus) was found under a group of trees by footpath N 89.

At the west end of Millers Lane there is a striking clump of Caucasian Comfrey (Symphytum caucasicum), a garden escape, by the side of the road.

Millers Lane had the richer flora on the eastern side where the bank is steeper and has a species rich hedgerow on the top. The other side has been incorporated into gardens in a number of places.

Calbourne Mill – 12th May

The owners of Calbourne Mill have recently purchased a field which slopes down to the Caul Bourne to the west of the mill buildings, and the botany section carried out a survey to assist in the future management of the field, which has been cattle-grazed in recent years.

A species list of 112 plants included six species of sedge including Spring Sedge (Carex caryophylla) and ten species of grass including French Oat Grass (Gaudinia fragilis).

Near the water’s edge we found Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) and Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) and there were some early damselflies on the wing.
St Luke’s Cemetery and St Helens West Green – 3rd June

St Luke’s Cemetery, on Lane End Road, Bembridge, has an attractive meadow flora and is left uncut at this time of year. Off the paths, it is rather uneven underfoot so it was a case of slow and careful searching. Species we noted included Corky-fruited Water Dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides), Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum), Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) and Squirrel Tail Fescue (Vulpia bromoides). An unexpected find was Purple (or yarrow) Broomrape (Orobanche purpurea) in several places. This is a new site for this plant.

A part of St Helens Green is also left uncut and it is noted for the presence of Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). A number of springs run underneath the area, giving rise to damper patches, where plants such as Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) Oval Sedge (Carex ovalis) and Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula) grow.

Kern Farm – 30th June

Unfortunately this meeting was abandoned because of heavy rainfall. We hope to carry out a survey here next year.

Upper Dolcoppice – 21st July

This area has an interesting mixture of unimproved habitats including a damp meadow and a dry sandy hill, which has extensive Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) with Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) cover on the lower slopes.

In the meadow we found Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre) as well as Field Horsetail (E. arvense), Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula), Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), a patch of Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii and D. praetermissa) and three species of rush, Jointed Rush (Juncus articula), Compact Rush (Juncus conglomeratus) and Soft Rush (Juncus effuses). On the hill, which has extensive views over the upper Medina Valley, we found Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica), Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Heath Groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus) in the areas kept clear by the grazing activities of rabbits.

Bleak Down – 25th August

The area has been the subject of extensive scrub clearance recently, as part of the Wight Quarries Project and we would like to thank Richard Grogan for guiding us round the site. We visited the part, which after mineral extraction, has been allowed to re-vegetate rather than being used as a landfill site. There is a pond, which has plants of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) at its edge and Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) growing in an unusual way in the water itself, looking quite unlike that on the ground nearby. An area of Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) also contained an interesting mixture of grasses and sedges including Bristle Bent (Agrostis curtisii), Pill Sedge (Carex pilulifera), Green Ribbed Sedge (Carex binervis) and Common Yellow Sedge (Carex viridula subsp. oedocarpa). A clump of Water Speedwell was much examined, photographed and debated and was finally declared to be the blue form (Veronica anagallis-aquatica). There is an extensive area of heathers, Bell Heather (Erica cinerea), Cross Leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) and Ling (Calluna vulgaris) that was flowering well but although we searched carefully we were not able to find any dodder growing over it. However there were Grayling butterflies and a Wasp spider to add interest to the afternoon.

Little Thorness Farm – 23rd September

The main purpose of our visit was to look at the low-lying grazing marsh that is part of a managed retreat scheme. On either side of the stream, channels have been cut into the ground and the sea is able to enter on high tides. Over time, the flora in the area is expected to change, with plants characteristic of brackish pastures and upper saltmarshes colonising. With this hypothesis in mind, we carried out timed searches of three areas at different distances from the sea, noting which species were present and how abundant they were. When the results were analysed we did find evidence that the species composition varies over the marsh. The part furthest from the sea has the widest range of species, and they are ones associated with terrestrial habitats. Nearer to the sea, upper saltmarsh species were present in greater quantity. We hope that these preliminary findings may be the basis for a more thorough study that will be repeated in successive years to monitor change more closely.

In the second part of the afternoon we walked along the shore to look for some of the shingle bank specialist plants. Of particular note were Prickly Saltwort (Salsola kali), Ray’s Knotgrass (Polygonum oxyspermum) and Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).

Corf Camp – 13th October

Our second visit of the year to this site adjacent to a creek of the Newtown estuary we concentrated on finding galls and leaf miners in both the woodland and saltmarsh habitats. With twenty of us looking for the swollen growths on plants (galls), the damage to leaves caused by larvae burrowing through them (leaf mines) or fungal growths on plants, progress round the site was fairly slow. A considerable number of specimens were taken by David Biggs for microscopic examination later.

In total we found 21 galls (15 new for the site), 20 leaf miners (17 of which were new for the site) and 17 micro fungi, (11 new for the site including one not previously recorded on the Island).

Specimen Trees in Northwood Park – 27th October

With Bill Shepard as our guide, assisted by Tina Williamson the ‘Histree Trail’ Officer, we set off for a leisurely stroll around Northwood Park to look at the wide variety of magnificent ornamental trees. During the course of our visit, we saw all three species of Cedar that are commonly planted in Britain – Deodar (Cedrus deodara), Cedar of Lebanon (C. libani) and Atlantic Cedar (C atlantica) – as well as a very large Cork Oak (Quercus suber), and a Murbeck’s Oak (Quercus canariensis). A Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) was not only interesting in its own right but was found to be hosting a large group of Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axryridis), some still in the larval stage.

We saw over 40 species of tree and shrub during the meeting and the most poetically named was probably the Chinese Necklace Poplar (Populus lasiocarpa), the name coming from the fruits which have the appearance of a string of beads.

Anne Marston