Fulking Escarpment

Field meeting reports
Picture of Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid)
Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid). Photo: Nick Sturt

Meeting date: 16 June 2018

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

(This meeting will go down in the annals of Sussex botanical history for the discovery of a plant new to Sussex but the report details the day as it occurred: the identification and confirmation of Bunium bulbocastanum (Great Pignut) were not made until some weeks later.) 

An overcast sky and a bracing wind may have discouraged the many butterflies which are a feature of this site but there was no such lack of enthusiasm among the group of fourteen who set about a day of pleasurable study on the prime chalk slopes. Some of the work involved pairs of plants – Leontodon hispidus and L. saxatilis (Rough Hawkbit and Lesser Hawkbit), Thymus polytrichus and T. pulegioides (Common Thyme and Large Thyme), Reseda luteola and R. lutea (Weld and Wild Mignonette). Roses were on Elisabeth’s mind but the overwhelming majority were, not altogether unexpectedly, good examples of R. micrantha (Small-flowered Sweet-briar). Meanwhile an eye was kept on species missing from TQ21K, with Gareth and Richard winning the prizes by re-finding respectively a good patch of Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid) on a steep bank near the top of the hill and Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid) as the party descended homewards. No prize could be awarded to the leader, however: he failed to pay attention to a small umbellifer with tell-tale bracts and hurried the party into the next tetrad to the earthworks where the Tephroseris integrifolia (Field Fleawort) which had cheered an SBRS group in 2010 was not visible.

Throughout the day grasses had been a theme: Avenula pratensis (Meadow Oat-grass) had been re-found, Trisetum flavscens (Yellow Oat-grass) had been examined in all its stages of flowering, dark red Catapodium rigidum (Fern-grass) stood out against the white of bare chalk; Bromoposis erecta (Upright Brome) and Arrenatherum elatius (False Oat-grass), Brachypodium rupestre and B. sylvaticum (Tor-grass and False Brome) made another two useful comparisons. Sue D. was, naturally, in the thick of this work. Near the end Lis from Kent somehow intuited a longing in the leader and delighted him with a few spikes of Carex caryophyllea (Spring Sedge). I have already mentioned that everyone on an SBRS field meeting learns something new, but this event where education was the main purpose proved very popular and enormously enjoyable. As a postscript I should mention that patrons of Priscilla’s mobile library will be excited to learn that at lunch time on this day a greengrocery department was launched with complimentary broad beans and watercress.