Parham Park

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 11 May 2002

(Leader: Frances Abraham)

Managing a group of no less than 33 botanical anarchists might have daunted some, but Frances (of course!) carried it off with panache – although at times a sheepdog could have been useful. Starting with a careful progress east from the car-park in front of the house over sandy ground towards the icehouse, Trifolium subterraneum (Subterranean Clover) flowering in substantial patches was one of the delights in the sward and a good selection of other species favouring the soil was steadily accumulated. There was much debate over a Vicia, but alas it declined to key itself out as V. lathyroides, perversely insisting that it was V. sativa nigra.  The richest area in the morning proved to be the land along the entrance drive where ditches and drier land in close proximity added substantially to the crossings-off on the card. Here it was instructive to compare Carex flacca (Glaucous Sedge) growing almost stem-to-stem with C. nigra (Common Sedge), and there were good stands of the much rarer C. arenaria (Sand Sedge) extending from the roadside southwards up the slope.

Joe Reardon-Smith, a BSBI member employed in the gardens at Parham, secured permission for us to see some of the treasures of the garden, including festoons of mistletoe on the apple trees. While hedonists feasted carelessly by the lakes others were more alert: Michael and Olwen noticed some sword-shaped leaves of a special green on the margin and, sure enough, discovered another West Sussex site for Zizania latifolia (Manchurian Rice-grass).

Next we set off across rushy meadowland towards the western boundary of the park where the highlight was definitely Viola canina (Heath Dog-violet), one of those species not uncommon in the county half a century or so ago but now decidedly scarce.