Pagham Spit

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 22 July 2000

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

Seventeen members (with v.c.14 well represented) assembled in the car park at the end of Harbour Road. The Society had not paid a formal visit for a number of years and with the loss of George Forster in 1996 there was a feeling that vascular plant records for this important site were in need of updating; in particular it was hoped that Galeopsis angustifolia (Red Hemp-nettle) and Anisantha madritensis (Compact Brome) could be refound. The morning was spent working out along the Spit and soon a good list of typical seaside plants was accumulating with the obvious highlight of the Pagham speciality Petrorhagia nanteuilii (Childling Pink) – which was found in considerable quantity throughout the day. Other goodies included a stray plant of Oenanthe lachenalii (Parsley Water-dropwort) on the shingle, a cluster of Vicia lutea (Yellow-vetch) sporting its notably hairy pods, and Aira caryophyllea (Silver Hair-grass) which seems to have declined in the county since the Sussex Plant Atlas. No hemp-nettle and vast areas of pebbles bearing nothing more exciting than Arrhenathrum elatius (False Oat-grass). After lunch and a smattering of clouded yellows we moved down the beach towards Bognor, noting white-flowered Verbascum blattaria (Moth Mulein)  (which George Forster had in the past pointed out to several of us) and moving into garden escape territory. By chance we were observing, amongst the forests of Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) and prairies of Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer) some Briza maxima (Greater Quaking-grass) when we were approached by  (in her own less than accurate words) ‘a very amateur botanist’ –  Sheila Collenette, author of the flora of Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile Rod was being presented with stimulating Hieracia (Hawkweeds) and – at last – a few plants were found of Galeopsis angustifolia (Red Hemp-nettle).

Especial thanks are due to the Warden of Pagham Harbour NNR Rob Carver who kindly organised parking vouchers, to his Deputy Sarah Patten who showed us caterpillars of the very rare Toadflax Brocade perversely feeding on Linaria purpurea (Purple Toadflax)rather than L. vulgaris (Common Toadflax), and to Lawrence Holloway whose vast expertise on birds warned us against assuming that vascular plants were the only absorbing branch of natural history.