Shoreham Beach

Field meeting reports
Picture of Starry Clover (Trifolium stellatum)
Starry Clover (Trifolium stellatum). Photo: Nick Sturt

Meeting date: 31 May 2017

(Leaders: Jacky Woolcock/Nick Sturt)

Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve (LNR) was identified as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance in 1992, designated a LNR in 2002 and declared as such in 2006. It consists of just over 11 hectares (27 acres) of shingle beach, the vegetation of which includes some rare plants that were on the ‘hit list’ drawn up by the organisers. 17 SBRS members braved the beautiful weather to meet at Shoreham Fort car park at the easternmost end of the reserve. Jacky had kindly organised free parking for both cars and bicycles. At the appointed time (traditionally ten minutes after the advertised start time) we were briefed by Nick until Jacky led the charge over the grassy bank in search of unusual clovers. Trifolium scabrum (Rough Clover) and Medicago polymorpha (Toothed Medick) were soon bagged, but we dipped on Trifolium suffocatum (Suffocated Clover). On the way to the beach to start the formal recording, a nice patch of what was perhaps the ‘star’ of the meeting, Trifolium stellatum (Starry Clover), was found on the bank around the car park where we’d congregated before the start. The shingle was dominated by large stands of flowering Senecio cineraria (Silver Ragweed), Crambe maritime (Sea Kale), Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) and Erigeron glaucus (Seaside Daisy), interspersed with Glaucium flavum (Yellow Horned-poppy) and Malva arborea (Tree Mallow). Cymbalaria muralis (Ivy-leaved Toadflax) and Ameria maritima (Thrift) were also abundant. Less showy were frequent clumps of Beta vulgaris (Sea Beet) just coming into flower. Catapodium marinum (Sea Fern-grass) and Vulpia bromoides (Squirrel-tail Fescue) were amongst the Poaceae.

Picture of botanists at Shoreham Beach

Areas of short matted vegetation were scrutinised thoroughly by members adopting the ‘botanical prayer’ position (face to the floor, hand lens to eye, backside to sky). Prayers were answered with Sagina apetala ssp. erecta (Annual Pearlwort) and Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear).  Less taxing to observe was the stand of Silene italicum (Italian Catchfly), misidentified in the past as S. nutans (Nottingham Catchfly). Unfortunately this had largely gone over, but the carpophore:capsule ratio was discernible. Papaver rhoeas (Common Poppy) was actually an exciting record, it not having been recorded for some time. Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle), another garden escape, was putting on an impressive display. Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus (Eastern Gladiolus) was another obvious garden escape that caught the eye.

Having ploughed down the foreshore at a formidable 0.2 mph, the suggestion of lunch was accepted without dispute. The aspect was lovely, with the hot sun sparkly on the calm sea and a gentle breeze to prevent over-heating. The afternoon produced Vicia lutea (Yellow Vetch), Trifolium striatum (Knotted Clover), Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup), Solanum dulcamara ssp. marinum (Bittersweet) and possibly Sol ardeat (Sunburn) for those less assiduous about suncream application. Other natural history observations included an attractive Lackey Moth (Malacosoma neustria) caterpillar and several glimpses of the naturalised Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis sicula).

The weather, company and plants all conspired to make this an excellent day. Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup) turned out to be the only new species.