Sunday, 29 November 2015

Record number of visitors at BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2015

Massed botanists at the 2015 Exhibition Meeting
Image: T. Swainbank  
Well I hope that everybody who contributed to the success of yesterday's BSBI Exhibition Meeting is enjoying a very well-deserved rest today. 205 botanists came together to share their passion for British and Irish wild plants, and every single one of them played a part in making this a day to remember. 

So we can justifiably call this our best attended Exhibition Meeting since records began: 182 people attended last year's Exhibition Meeting at University of Leicester and 192 at the Natural History Museum in 2013... 

Our next generation of botanists:
Ryan (on left) George (in the middle)
& Reuben (on right)
Image: K. Garnett
The eight talks and 44 exhibits were so amazing that I'm not going to try and summarise them here. They deserve several posts of their own and we will be uploading all the talks and as many as possible of the exhibits in the next few days so you can all see them, and sharing images of the more traditional exhibits, like the 5foot parsnip seedhead from Alan Leslie's Cambridge Miscellany. Not quite sure how to upload that ...

Perhaps the most notable feature of the meeting - and the one which gave me most pleasure - was seeing many of this country's most eminent botanists chatting away happily with less experienced botanists, whether newcomers to BSBI or younger botanists who are just getting started in their careers. And there were many more fresh young faces at this AEM than at any I can remember.

Having a go at John Poland's Plant ID Quiz
Image: L. Marsh
Throughout the day, many people came up to me, grinning from ear to ear, because they'd just exchanged comments with botanical "big names" like Clive Stace, Mick Crawley, Kevin Walker, Pete Stroh, Sandy Knapp, Tim Rich, Sarah Whild, Ian Denholm, David Pearman, John Poland, Eric Clement, Lynne Farrell, Paul Smith, Philip Oswald, Fred Rumsey, Arthur Chater, Ray Harley, Helena Crouch, Chris Metherell...  and found them all so friendly, helpful and approachable. 

I think we have finally laid waste the stereotype that great botanists are remote, dull and humourless! 

Ryan overcame his nerves and his talk about
BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt was a huge success
Image: A. Farrell
This year's Exhibition Meeting was a real testament to what can happen when we all work together. Members of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee and/or our new Membership Advisory Group worked with the team at the Natural History Museum, putting in a huge amount of work in advance and on the day - special mention goes to: 

Ryan, who designed the new BSBI banner which greeted visitors on arrival, exhibited a poster about BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt and calmed any nerves he may have been experiencing about giving a talk on the Plant Hunt later that day by turning up early to help lug in all the display boards and tables we needed! 

One of the historic orchid specimens
from the NHM herbarium, displayed
 on the 'Orchid Observers' stand
Image: T. Swainbank 
Kylie, who handled advance bookings and very nobly passed up the chance to hear most of the talks so she could (wo)man the Reception Desk for most of the day, ably assisted by her sister Natalie. 

Fred Rumsey at the Natural History Museum, who hosted this meeting for us, and colleagues Mike Waller (of 'Orchid Observers' fame) and Caroline Ware (of NHM Wildlife Garden fame). Fred handled all the organising at NHM's end, helped by Caroline and Mike, and his reward was to be rushed off his feet all day leading three fully-booked herbarium tours. 

Caroline's three guided tours of the NHM Wildlife Garden also proved very popular and people were delighted to find that there is so much to see there, even in November, and to hear that the Garden is open most of the year and free to enter. And to find out that Caroline is always happy to give fellow botanists a guided tour if you get in touch with her in advance to set a date.   

Waheed (on right) takes a break
 from manning the Reception
Desk to check out the exhibits
Image: T. Swainbank
Oli Pescott, George Garnett and Waheed Arshad - amazing young botanists, set to become the "botanical big names" of the future in my opinion, who were happy to turn up at silly o'clock to lug boards and tables or hand out exhibitor packs!

Special shout-out for another young botanist, Anna Farrell, who very kindly helped me transport material to the meeting - half the display boards would have been bare without Anna's help and nobody would have received a visitors' pack! 

All these people - and everyone who turned up on the day - helped to make this meeting a great success but there's one person who hasn't even been mentioned yet, even though his contribution over the past few years has turned BSBI into the kind of society which, as this year's Exhibition Meeting demonstrated, can welcome in younger members and beginner botanists and also retain the interest and involvement of all those botanical big names. 

So it was a bittersweet moment to see Ian Denholm, Co-Chair of Meetings & Communications Committee and BSBI President since June 2013, step down yesterday - as our Rules insist he must - and hand over to our new President John Faulkner, who was voted in unanimously at the Annual General Meeting, which was also held yesterday. Ryan tweeted:

The changing of the guard. steps down as president of , to be replaced by John Faulkner
Embedded image permalink
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John will be no stranger to regular readers of this blog and having spent time recording in the field with him on a wet day in the Outer Hebrides - the best test I know of a botanist's true character! - my humble opinion is that he's a good'un - different style to Ian but that's the nice thing about a new President, they come in with new ideas and build on the achievements of their predecessorsI look forward to telling you more in the coming weeks about John and what he hopes to achieve as President.   

John Faulkner leading a field meeting to
Garry Bog, BSBI Summer Meeting 2015
Image courtesy J. Faulkner
He certainly has some big shoes to fill - just type Ian's name into the search box on the right to get an idea of some the fieldindoor and committee meetings that he has attended as President, the local groups he has enthused and the many times he has represented the society at outreach events and press launches

Ian now joins the ranks of eminent past Presidents such as David Allen, Clive Stace and David Pearman, all of whom were present yesterday as the society thanked Ian for his outstanding service over the past few years and looked forward to his ongoing contribution as Co-Chair of Meetings & Communications Committee and as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Well, you didn't think we'd just let him pootle off and look at orchids did you!   

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Record number of exhibits for BSBI Exhibition Meeting

Orchid Observers: Fred (on right) & historic orchid
specimens from the NHM herbarium
Image: L. Marsh
Blimey, botanists - we asked you for lots of great exhibits for this Saturday's Exhibition Meeting and we expected similar numbers to last year (31) and the year before (32). What did you offer us?

44 exhibits to fit into the Flett Theatre at the Natural History Museum! It was tricky but we've done it, so you should find the hall full to the brim with botanical delights when you arrive on Saturday morning. 

Here's a taste of what we have to look forward to at this year's AEM:

Exhibits from BSBI members on the flora of locations including St. Kilda, South Wales, Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and the Little Ouse Valley Fens. 

Testing NPMS survey methods: Kevin (on right)
Pete (red T-shirt) & Oli (blue hat)
Image: M. Pocock 
For orchid-obsessives we have exhibits about the Ghost Orchid Project and Orchid Observers, the latter featuring historic rare orchid specimens from the Natural History Museum Herbarium. 

If rarities and plant distributions are your thing, you'll also want to check out the BSBI Science Table, where Kevin and Pete can tell you about BSBI's Species Accounts, Atlas2020 and the Threatened Plants Project. And don't miss two exhibits from Quentin Groom based on his New Journal of Botany paper about herbarium networks and historic female botanists

If you want to know more about botanical training courses, or plants to get children and young people involved in botany, or how to get started in ecological consultancy, or how BSBI training grants can help you improve your ID skills, head over to the Training & Education area of the hall. 

John Poland (on right) is always happy to help
with vegetative plant ID!
Image: L. Marsh
Wondering where the actual plants are? John Poland will have some on his Vegetative ID Table (hopefully with one of his fiendishly tricky ID quizzes) and there's also an ID Table where you can bring along plant specimens and challenge some of the country's top botanists to help you identify them.

Combining the old and the new, exhibits on herbaria will sit alongside interactive displays showing how social media can help people get involved in botany. Kevin Widdowson will be showing us his Facebook group which helps beginner and improver botanists work through Plant ID keys. 

Strawberry Tree in flower in Co. Kerry
for the New Year Plant Hunt 2015
Image: R. Hodd
Louisa Armstrong offers a poster on 'Wild Flower Hour', which in just a few months has become incredibly popular. Every Sunday evening from 8-9pm, botanists take to Twitter to share pictures of any wild flowers they have seen in flower across Britain and Ireland during the previous week.  

Two final exhibits to tell you about, tying in with two of our speakers: Oli Pescott will be showing us some of the on-line resources available to participants in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme and exhibiting a poster showing successes from the first year of the scheme, to compliment his talk on the same subject. And Ryan Clark's poster and talk will give you the low-down on the New Year Plant Hunt - successes in 2015 and how to get involved in January 2016. 

Will that do for a Saturday in November? As well as eight talks, fully-booked herbarium tours, a pop-up natural history bookshop, guided tours of the famous NHM Wildlife Garden, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones? 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BSBI training grants help budding botanists: Part Four

Preston Montford Field Centre: the pond
Image: Copyright Betty Longbottom and
licensed for re-use under
  this Creative Commons licence
Delighted to hear from Marcus, who received a BSBI training grant this year. He will be offering a poster about the grant and what it helped him achieve at next weekend's BSBI Exhibition Meeting but for now, here's Marcus's guest blogpost:

"Each year the BSBI gives out a number of grants to budding botanists. I was lucky enough this year to be the recipient of one of these grants, which allowed me to spend a fantastic long weekend at the Field Studies Council’s Preston Montford Field Centre studying a course on aquatic plants.

Aquatic plants from
Thursley Pool, Surrey
Image: M. Militello
"The course was taught by environmental consultant and BSBI member Nick Law and Sarah Whild, BSBI trustee and Chair of BSBI's Training & Education Committee. Having only studied botany on a casual basis for the previous year and a half I had, prior to the course, next to no experience in aquatic plant identification, so was a little daunted at the prospect of learning the features and names of a whole host of plants that I was unfamiliar with.

"Additionally upon arrival I found out that many aquatic plants spend little time in flower, making things even tougher! For this reason, learning to use vegetative keys was crucial in order to correctly identify specimens. Having in the past focused primarily upon identification via flowers I had much to learn!

"Sarah and Nick did however make things seem much easier than I had expected. The dichotomous key they had created was an extremely useful and easy to follow guide for the amateur aquatic botanist and I was generally able to correctly identify specimens in the classroom. A host of reference books were also supplied and turned out to be very useful, particularly when identifying the harder species. 

"I made much use of Rich and Jermy’s Plant Crib and learnt to use the polychotomous keys in Poland and Clements ‘Vegetative Key to the British Flora’ a book which has now  become one of my field identification stalwarts and is with me at all times in the field.

Thursley Pool, Surrey
Image: M. Militello
"As with any good FSC course there was also a field based portion. This gave all students a chance to experience rural Shropshire and identify the plants in situ, which is something I always find more difficult than identifying within the classroom but is invaluable, since this is where the majority of identification must take place. Sites visited included Bomere Pool, Montgomery Canal and Wildmoor pool, which covered a range of habitats, and each had its own distinctive assemblage of species.

"In the month following the course I took part in the BioBlitz at Moors Valley Country Park, where I was at that time based. I led a small group of families around the park teaching them about aquatic plants. Everyone got to have a go with the grapnel, pulling many a pondweed and hornwort out of the stream. It was great to be able to pass on some of what I learnt on the course to members of the public.

Water Fern Azolla filiculoides 
Image downloaded from GBNNSS and
reproduced under Crown Copyright
"Since then I have moved onto a post with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, something which I believe the course aided me in getting. I have found my new knowledge of aquatic plants has been great when running volunteer groups in pond habitats. I am able to point out and name plant species that will be of benefit to the rarer species of amphibian: Great Crested Newt and Natterjack Toad.

"I would again like to say how thankful I am to the BSBI for their support - through awarding grants of this nature I feel the BSBI effectively nurtures the next generation of botanists and helps spread knowledge about botanical biodiversity around the British Isles. I certainly feel it has enriched my understanding of British botany and has helped me to choose the Masters Degree programme in Biological Recording, which I am now studying".

Many thanks to Marcus for explaining so clearly how his BSBI training grant helped him improve his botanical skills and get the job he wanted in conservation. Find out more at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

BSBI members in the news!

An attentive audience for talks at last year's AEM
Image: L. Marsh
We have a great selection of speakers lined up for the BSBI Exhibition Meeting on 28th November and one of them was on local radio this morning! 

George Garnett was talking to BBC Radio Guernsey about his experience of botanising on the island. He'll be telling us more at the Exhibition Meeting, sharing a slot with BSBI President Ian Denholm who will be talking about orchids on Jersey

We plan to upload their presentations - and those of our other speakers - to the BSBI website early in December.

Ryan Clark in the field.
Image courtesy of R. Clark
For now, you can listen to George here (starts 2 hours 25 minutes in). The interviewer makes much of George's youth and the fact that he will be the youngest ever speaker at a BSBI Exhibition Meeting.

This is true and we are delighted to offer our younger botanists a platform but George was invited to speak because he is an excellent botanist working at the southern limits of BSBI's range and we'd like to hear more about the plants he records on the island! 

Ryan Clark will also be talking at the Exhibition Meeting about the New Year Plant Hunt, which was mentioned in this morning's Guardian. 

Frozen nosegay picked during
New Year Plant Hunt 2015
Image: J.R. Clough
Check out this Country Diary column by BSBI member and journalist Phil Gates, who talks about late-blooming plants and name-checks not only BSBI but also the Wild Flower Society who will also be exhibiting at the Exhibition Meeting. 

Ryan will also be announcing details at the Exhibition Meeting of the 2016 New Year Plant Hunt and how you can get involved. It's a busy month for Ryan - he's giving a presentation today about biological recording at the NBN conference in York. 

If you would like to hear Ryan, George and seven other speakers, including our keynote talk from Prof Mick Crawley, but you haven't yet booked for the Exhibition Meeting, don't panic! You can still book here but the herbarium tours are all full up now, so you will have to settle for eight amazing talks and a record number of exhibits!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Is the next Japanese Knotweed already in your garden?

Houttuynia cordata in Katharina's garden -
she has found it hard to get rid of
Image: K. Dehnen-Schmutz
That's the question that Katharina wants News & Views readers to help her answer! Over to Katharina to tell us more:

 "Most alien plants in the British flora considered to have negative impacts have been introduced as ornamental garden plants. There are often long delays from the introduction to the recognition of a problematic invasive plant. 

"A new project aims to test if the reporting of early warning signs from gardens could help to design more effective prevention strategies at the early stages of the invasion process. 

Crocosmia x crocosmiifolia naturalised in Cornwall
Image: K. Dehnen-Schmutz
"Gardeners are therefore asked to report ornamental plants that are spreading in their gardens and are difficult to control using this online survey. Up to five plants can be reported. 

"People who have taken the survey already say that it takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Time well spent to perhaps prevent the next Japanese Knotweed.

"As this is a pilot I am mainly interested in responses from people who are able to identify the plants they report. In the final version there will also be an option to send photos, which does not really work at this time of the year.

"I will also be at the BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting on the 28th of November to introduce the project and hopefully report some first results".

Gunnera tinctoria colonising a
roadside ditch on Benbecula.
Image: F. Donald
Many thanks to Katharina for telling us about this project - the on-line survey sounds ideal for any gardener or botanist who has had a go at the National Plant Monitoring Scheme and the New Year Plant Hunt and is ready for another challenge. You could try out the pilot survey now and offer some helpful feedback or wait until next year for the final version. Or both!

To give you a bit more background, here's a link to a blogpost about alien plants by BSBI member/Plantlife officer Dr Trevor Dines.  

BSBI members have previously drawn attention to the spread of Gunnera tinctoria which has "jumped the fence" of some larger gardens in the north and west of these islands, and is becoming quite a pest. If we can help flag up any other potential problem plants at an early stage, we could all save ourselves a lot of time and expense further down the line! 

If you've already booked for this year's Exhibition Meeting, you will be able to find out more about the survey from Katharina. If you haven't booked yet, you can still do so here.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

BSBI training grants help budding botanists. Part three.

Another budding botanist has been in touch to tell us about the BSBI training grant she received, the course she was able to attend and what she learned. Over to BSBI grant recipient Rozanna Shah:

Wild strawberry with pointed leaf tip -
points out that there will be strawberries here!
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"I was very lucky to receive a grant from BSBI to study higher plants on a Fields Studies Council identification course. I was already undertaking a post-graduate certificate in countryside management with Manchester Metropolitan University and wanted to focus on developing my botany with the FSC courses that were set units as part of the course. I chose a woodland plants course run by Nick Law at Preston Montford. It looked fascinating due to the variety of plants and habitats covered in the course and in the beauty of the Shropshire hills. 

"Nick was an extremely knowledgeable and engaging tutor and ecologist at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. He started out with an evening session on identification skills, using keys and guides and also gave us a couple of evening sessions covering the detail of mosses, liverworts and ferns.

Barren Strawberry with a depressed terminal tooth:
 you will be depressed too if you go to this plant
hoping to find a strawberry!
Image courtesy of Floral Images

"Nick planned a thorough route through some fascinating woodlands including lowland beech, sessile oak woods and then wet alder woodlands, ensuring we stopped and covered any species seen spontaneously. 

"He had a great set of diagrams and lists of diagnostic features to distinguish between other similar looking species and this I found the most useful aspect, I won’t be confusing sessile and pedunculate oak in the future for example. The features were very clear and many were not in ID guides so comprehensive notes were needed.

"I was intrigued to discover plants I wouldn’t have considered as woodland flowers and some of the clear diagnostic features once they were pointed out. For example, Barren and Wild strawberries which could be distinguished by simply comparing leaf tips. 

Early dog-violet with a darker spur
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"And one of my favourite features were the darker and lighter spurs of Violets which indicated whether they were common or the early dog-violet, seemingly simple features but on the surface species appearing very similar. Other great ID tips included dark marks on fern scales and kidney or J-shaped indusia or spores! This I found particularly helpful for collecting specimens for my subsequent coursework on ferns.

Common dog-violet with a paler spur
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"Nick also tested us throughout the course and stopped us at bridges as the ‘Grumpy Old Man’ that wouldn’t let us past until we got a question right, whether it be correcting our Latin names and family associations or diagnostic features to split up associated plants and remember them more easily. 

"As difficult as being put on the spot was, it was a great way to revise on what we had learnt so far as there was so much amount of information to digest.

"We also covered ancient woodland indicator species and over 70 species and 30 families in total over the course of the weekend and it was a fabulous introduction to some difficult groups such as ferns and mosses, which are actually crucial for some detailed woodland surveying I would go on to assist with for consultancy. This includes NVC surveys which rely heavily on ground flora and mosses to categorise habitats into specific communities".

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Botanical recording in the Cairngorms National Park

Field Gentian.
Image courtesy of Floral Images:
Good to hear from Andy Amphlett, BSBI Recorder for Banffshire (VC94), who has been out again this year recording plants in Cairngorms National Park (CNP). Andy also co-ordinated the recording efforts of more than 40 fellow botanists in the Park this year and between them, they have amassed an amazing total! 

Here is a brief update from Andy, and the map below will give you a better idea of where he and fellow recorders have been recording this year:

“The total number of CNP records now in the BSBI database for this year is 27,175 records, of 777 taxa, in 297 tetrads. This includes 1592 records of 152 taxa in the CNP Rare Plant Register. The map below shows taxa recorded per tetrad in 2015.

“98% of the records have been made at 1km precision or better, and 66% of records are to 100m precision or better.

“A small amount of recording is ongoing, but the main emphasis now is on checking and validating records, and ensuring that any remaining records are submitted in a timely fashion. I envisage writing the report on this year's recording in December”.

I asked Andy if there were any notable records and he mentioned 125 records for Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) and 56 records for Lycopodium annotinum (Interrupted Clubmoss). He also said that the BSBI recording weekend held in VC92 in August yielded around 1,500 records within the CNP, although this was not part of the CNP-supported project.

Many thanks to Andy for this update and congratulations on the amazing number of plants he and fellow botanists have recorded this year in CNP. We look forward to seeing his report when it’s ready. Now here's the map (click to enlarge):

Tetrad map: botanical recording in the Cairngorms National Park, 2015
Image courtesy of Andy Amphlett

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Moving tribute to John Sawyer by young naturalist

This is a very moving tribute to John Sawyer from Ryan Clark, one of the many young biological recorders and nature lovers who were inspired and personally encouraged by John. 

Sad news and a great loss

John Sawyer admiring a wild orchid.
Image courtesy of NBN Trust
BSBI was shocked and saddened to hear yesterday of the untimely death of John Sawyer, CEO of the National Biodiversity Network Trust. 

Ian Denholm, BSBI President said, "The sad news of John’s untimely death comes just as he was proving such a dynamic force in reshaping NBN and strengthening natural history recording in the UK. 

"We offer our deepest condolences to John's family and friends and extend our sympathy and support to all our NBN colleagues at this difficult time." ​

Thursday, 5 November 2015

BSBI training grants help budding botanists. Part Two.

Great views during a coastal walk near the Centre
Image: D. Wallace
The second in an occasional series in which recipients of BSBI training grants in 2015 tell us about the course which the grant allowed them to attend, what they learned and what they have been able to achieve as a result of the course. 

Grants for 2016 will be advertised on the BSBI Training page - this usually happens on 1st January.

For now, here's Debbie's account of how the training grant helped her:

Sonchus arvensis
Image: D. Wallace
"Receiving a BSBI training grant this year enabled me to attend a Difficult Plants course at Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre (FSC). This course has opened new doors for me, improving my knowledge of some of the more difficult plant families and taking me a step forward in my study of botany. 

"Having had the pleasure of attending one of Ros Bennett's botany courses during 2014, I was really keen to progress by tackling some of the plants which I find challenging to identify. The FSC course description asked, "Are you a botanist who still shies away from the dandelion look-alikes? Have you tried and failed to sort out the willows or the docks for instance? Do you find yourself saying 'I don't do sedges, or ferns, or goosefoots'?"

"Having previously picked up, and hastily put down, numerous yellow flowered Asteraceae, having wondered about Willows, pondered upon Polygonums and on occasions found myself somewhat bewildered by the difference between Chenopodium and Atriplex, I was convinced that I needed to learn more about these plant groups. 

Serratula tinctoria
Image: D. Wallace
"The course description went on to say, "By the end of the course you should be inspired with confidence and enthusiasm to tackle 'new' and attractive plants and so discover yet more of our amazingly beautiful, intriguing and surprisingly diverse flora." Having decided that this course was for me, I am delighted to report that I was not disappointed.

"Although the participants came from quite different botanical backgrounds, attendees' previous experience and aspirations were well catered for by Ros and everyone had a really enjoyable and very educational three days. The time spent in the classroom, learning about the key features of the plant groups, was followed up by many enjoyable hours of field practice (in the sunshine). 

The yellow glandular hairs of Sonchus arvensis
Image: D. Wallace
"By observing features including pappus hairs, leaf hairs, the achene shapes and the arrangement of the involucral bracts, we were able to key out many members of the Asteraceae. I particularly liked the yellow glandular hairs of Sonchus arvensis; however, I think my favourite Asteraceae of the course has to be Serratula tinctoria (Saw-wort).

"Ros' own lateral key to native 'Dandelion look-alikes' really unlocked the mysteries of this group and a laminated copy of this key has a permanent place in my rucksack. I often produce this key at times when my non-botanising companions least expect it (e.g. the occasions when I have an overwhelming urge to have a 'quick look' at some Crepis capilaris growing out of a kerb in a supermarket car park).

The elongated oil-glands on 3-ribbed achenes of
Tripleurospermum maritimum
Image: D, Wallace
"Mayweeds were another group covered. On a stunningly beautiful coastal walk, we were tasked with finding specimens in order to observe their diagnostic characteristics. We found that members of the genus Tripleurospermum have 3-ribbed achenes, additionally, that Tripleurospermum maritimum has elongated oil glands on its achenes, whereas those of Tripleurospermum inodorum oil glands are rounded. A less pleasant revelation was discovering why Anthemis cotula is known as Stinking Camomile!
"In addition to moving the entire group's botanical knowledge forwards, Ros also had a great talent for finding the most beautiful spots for our lunch stops. Eating Slapton Leys' finest packed lunches, whilst surrounded by Lobelia urens (Heath Lobelia), is a rare pleasure.

Lobelia urens
Image: D. Wallace
"The course has been part of a botanical learning journey for me this year. Having attended other botanical courses, including a sedge identification course and also completing the on-line Identiplant course, I feel that I am now able to make a useful contribution to botanical recording. Participating in the Identiplant course was a really useful and rewarding experience and one that I can highly recommend.

"The combined knowledge gained from these courses was employed to good effect during a holiday in Plockton on the west coast of Scotland. Plockton has a small, un-manned airfield with beautiful, herb-rich grassland.

"An enjoyable morning exploring the site, recording every plant which I could identify, left me with not only a list of plants which have been submitted to the Vice County Recorder, but also with the immense satisfaction that I could confidently identify almost every vascular plant to species level. 

Species-rich grassland at Plockton Airfield
Image: D. Wallace
"The records were well received, several new hectad records were recorded and two voucher specimens are currently with BSBI Specialist Referees for determination. Chris Metherell kindly identified a Euphrasia species which was abundant at the site, as Euphrasia arctica x nemorosa; another new hectad record.

"In addition to my passion for vascular plants, I have a keen and developing interest in both bryophytes and lichens. A previous commitment to attend a lichen microscopy course (which I am really looking forward to), prevents me from attending this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting; however, I am looking forward to the Annual Summer Meeting, being held next May at FSC Blencathra".

Many thanks to Debbie for this report - sounds like she really got a lot out of her BSBI training grant! I think we should all go along to next year's Summer Meeting so she can show us how to ID those tricky Dandelion lookalikes :-)