Meeting date: 3 August 2011
(Leaders: Ann Callow & Geoffrey Kitchener)
This meeting benefited both Kent and East Sussex botanists owing to the considerable overlap here of the administrative and Watsonian vice-county boundaries. From Flimwell, eight botanists reassembled at Pashley Manor’s car park. The morning was spent recording in TQ72E. We walked down the road where the Kent members recorded 35 new species for their VC16 records. We then followed a footpath where three trees and a possible seedling of Sorbus torminalis (Wild Service-tree) were recorded. Nearby, good quantities of Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Groundsel) were recorded in a recently coppiced area. It helped having the national recorder around when looking at a Rumex: a rather weak specimen turned out to be Rumex x duttonii (R. sanguineus x obtusifolius). The new records took the tetrad total to over 300.
Back at Pashley Manor, lunch was eaten in the shade of the trees to escape the heat and humidity. In the afternoon, the group returned to Flimwell to explore TQ73A and TQ73F. Following a path from the Royal Oak to some waste ground, the starry flowers of Hypericum humifusum (Trailing St. John’s-wort) caught our eyes as well as Centaurium pulchellum (Lesser Centaury) and Epilobium x vicinum (E. obscurum x ciliatum). The weedy gravel of the former Bird Park grounds produced a Hypericum which was later confirmed as H. x desetangsii (Des Etangs’ St. John’s-wort, H. perforatum x maculatum). Geoffrey noted that this hybrid has been included on the Kent Rare Plant Register because it continues to carry the genes of a species which has almost disappeared from the county. The car park also produced five Epilobium hybrids. In a dumped area there was a shoot of Sambucus nigra forma laciniata (Elder, cut-leaved form) and some Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine). At the end of a long afternoon, we were rewarded with the sight of Lobelia urens (Heath Lobelia) in its only station in Sussex. In fact although it has long been claimed as a Sussex plant and is within the current administrative boundary of East Sussex, strictly speaking it is within VC16 West Kent. Known here since 1925, its original woodland site has not been coppiced for many years but some plants still grow along the shaded footpath. However, it was flourishing in an open area of the original Bird Park where grazing, presumably by rabbits, keeps other vegetation at bay while the unpalatable Lobelia is avoided. TQ73A’s records now topped 300 and 73F (a partial tetrad) now had over 200 records.