Field meeting reports
Picture of Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear)
Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear). Photo: Dawn Nelson

Meeting date: 31 May 2014

(Leader: Mike Shaw)

Mike Shaw invited us to spend a day at the seaside and that is exactly what we did, hardly losing sight of the sea throughout the day. In his introduction Mike innocently told the thirteen members assembled at the west beach that the area is of great botanical interest, that the tetrad was already well recorded and that the day was intended more as an opportunity to enjoy the sights than a serious attempt to record more species. Well, a fine bunch of keen botanists could take that as a challenge, couldn’t they?  Not find new species lurking somewhere, I should think so!

We set off along the Climping dunes, which are protected here from human disturbance, and what an amazing array of plants there were in an astonishingly small area. Even from behind the fences we were able to see and record many species. There is only space in this report to mention a few but a look at the tetrad list will allow anyone to see the wealth of interest in the area. There was Phleum arenarium (Sand Cat’s-tail) and Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge). Lagurus ovatus (Hare’s-tail), alien interloper that it is, covered the dunes in a fluffy blanket as if it were a native. Beneath this ran a true native, Calystegia soldanella (Sea Bindweed) bestowing here and there its first pink and white star-shaped flowers. There were Crithmum maritimum (Rock Samphire) and Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) and many, many more. We moved off the dunes to the shingle that runs beside the Arun. The sun shone, fishermen fished, children paddled, gulls swooped and soared and we got down on our hands and knees and hunted for Trifolium ornithopodioides (Bird’s-foot Clover), not seen here for many years. It was a shame we didn’t find it, for this a place for Trifoliums (Trifolia?) if ever there was one: ten species recorded in the morning! Amsinckia micrantha (Common Fiddleneck) was our first completely new species of the day and Papaver lecoqii (Yellow-juiced Poppy) the second.

After lunch we moved east of the Arun to Littlehampton seafront amidst a swirling crowd of holidaymakers amongst which the group became somewhat amorphous, parting and rejoining as we explored these new habitats of lawns, flowerbeds, car parks and open spaces. New habitats produced more plants, many of them such old friends they appeared a little mundane, but there were gems here too. Nick Sturt discovered Medicago polymorpha (Toothed Medick), another new record for the tetrad. I noticed a smile on Nick’s face: I wouldn’t call it smug but I thought he felt it was appropriate for the Chairman to show he can cut the mustard. Whilst checking that Crassula tillaea (Mossy Stonecrop) was still in its appointed place (it was) Trifolium ornithopodioides (Bird’s-foot Clover) was found, increasing the day’s count for Trifolium to eleven. The day was notable not just for the marvellous weather but also for the number of species recorded (229), and there were yet another three completely new records to boot! It was the silent challenge, you see.

Picture of Silene conica (Sand Catchfly)
Silene conica (Sand Catchfly). Photo: Dawn Nelson