Horncroft Farm

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 31 May 2003

(Leader: Bruce Middleton)

Bruce had described the farm as a ‘floral treasure’: the 17 members who assembled on this unusually hot May day certainly had no quibble on this point and Alan was kept busy entering a total of nearly 200 species. We moved slowly down an overgrown track into deciduous woods where the tired leaves of the native Bluebell carpeted the ground, with here and there some other ancient woodland indicators. Emerging through some rough fields onto open heathy ground with Tony – sober despite the impression given by his rakishly reversed Pure Smirnoff cap – using his keen powers of observation to find Carices and spikes of Dactylorhiza praetermissa (Southern Marsh-orchid) in bud.

Lunch taken, Bruce took us to see one of the very few sites for Apium inundatum (Lesser Marshwort) in Sussex: the unassuming umbelliferous plant lay recumbent on the muddy margins of a small pond. The majority of the afternoon, however, was spent on hands and knees under blazing sun as we scoured a sandy field for such delights as Trifolium subterraneum, T. striatum, T. arvense (Subterranean, Soft and Hare’s-foot Clovers), Filago vulgaris (Common Cudweed) and Aira caryophhyllea (Silver Hair-grass). Of the notable species seen here the previous year by Bruce and Alan, only Trifolium suffocatum (Suffocated Clover) and  Scleranthus annuus (Annual Knawel) could not be found, but Alan himself was undismayed as he gloated over ever tinier plants. As usual, Bruce was very informative on management issues, in this case the somewhat conflicting needs of arable weeds, which like ploughing and harrowing, and those of Potentilla argentea (Hoary Cinquefoil) which is present here in perhaps its best Sussex site. On our return to the cars we were able to thank Bruce for another excellent meeting and also to make the acquaintance again of Isabel who had so kindly spared Daddy for the day.