Botany: A New Indulgence

From the day I was first fixated by the wonders of the natural world its been the birds that have dominated my life. More recently with the summer holidays progressing I thought it’d be best to use this vast amount of free time not only to be out birding, but to also indulge myself into a new area of the natural world that I had not yet explored. So, at the beginning of the summer holidays shortly before left the Wirral for a placement at the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory, I decided to invest in a moth trap from which I began to study the moths that occurred in be inner city garden.

The first of the problem that occurred with this was the fact that I’m in a inner city environment, an area that’s barren for moths due to the lack of breeding and feeding opportunities. That as a result means that on average I catch 8 moths per night, most of which include the likes of Large-yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba), Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella) and Dark Archers (Apamea monoglypha). As you can imagine over time I began lose my original enthusiasm for the subject, however it’s something I continue to do, so I decided to look else where for an area that I could explore and develop a new set of skills in throughout the summer that would maintain my interest which soon enough landed me at the gateway of botany.

Common Cudweed_edited-2
Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris) – Despite it being so called “common”, this species of Cudweed is designated a Near-Threatened species and in the north-west, a regionally scarce wildflower.

Having spoken fellow north-west wildlife nutters, they more or less started to rub off on me and I guess you could say that they inspired me to take the leap into the realm of plants, most notably wildflowers. Having met up with Josh one day to go out on a wonder round RSPB Marshside, Lancashire to exchange our vast knowledge in ornithology and botany, it became apparent that we could both come of use to one another. Josh was looking for someone to train him in the ways of the ornithological world, whilst I needed someone to educate me on the wildflowers of Great Britain.

On our following adventure to Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire I found out that there was a lot more to botany than meets the eye, as for the first time I found out that plants could not only hybridize, Goat X Grey Willow (Salix caprea x Salix cinerea), was an example he showed and demonstrated how to identify in the field when at Frodsham Marsh, but also the fact that like in world of ornithology, subspecies do occur with the prime example of the trip being that of the Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), subspecies roseata which happens to be a nationally scarce plant that occurs at fewer than hundred sites in the country.

What I love most about the world of botany and probably why I’m finding it reasonability simple to understand and take in, is the fact that it has many parallels regarding the skills required and areas of interest that I myself use when out making avian observations: Selecting key features to rule out all of possibilities that result in a identification along with hybrids, subspecies & taxa disputes being areas I find truly fascinating. The more time I spend out in the field with Joshua the more I learn and more I become ever respectful and envious of his skills in botany that has resulted in him becoming an FISC Lv.5.

WWT Martin Mere botanical survey_edited-1
Myself and Josh where lucky enough in late July to be invited to assist in an botanical survey at WWT Martin Mere, Lancashire. The only site in the NW to find Whorled Caraway (Carum verticillatum).

Now coming up to 2 months since my first encounter with botany and Josh, I’m feeling safe to say that this an area I’d like to know more about and with such a good teacher and it being a topic that you can do anytime, anywhere, I can’t find reason why not to continue and expand my knowledge in the field of botany.





One thought on “Botany: A New Indulgence

  1. Dai Stacey

    Hi Elliot
    I read with interest of your botanical forays. Carum verticillatum is the county plant of Carmarthenshire where we live and is fairly frequent in the wet meadows on the coal measures in our county. The other area it grows in some abundance is on the grassy slopes of the southern Scottish Highlands around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
    One of my favourite plants is Spiranthes spiralis which of course you will have seen growing in some abundance on Bardsey. It is an interesting plant in that it is pretty infrequent and declining on a county level but where it is found on unimproved grasslands it is often present in some abundance. The slopes around Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door in Purbeck have large populations to see in September. It seems to be particularly sensitive to use of artificial fertilisers and has died out on many sites. The sympathetic farm management on Bardsey obviously suits it.


    Liked by 1 person

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