Graffham Common

Field meeting reports

Picture of Heath flora at Graffham

Meeting date: 20 August 2017

(Leaders: Nick Sturt & Dawn Nelson)

Ten members converged on the revised venue of Graffham Common and set about the Sussex Wildlife Trust domain in SU91J with aplomb.  Much management work is being done on the Lower Greensand heaths of W. Sussex and this portion is responding well, with Drosera rotundifolia and D. intermedia (Round-leaved and Intermediate Sundews) in the damper spots amid gorgeous patches of Calluna (Heather) and our two species of Erica (Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather).  A feature of the day were the impromptu study groups which set themselves up – to sort out Agrostis canina and A. vinealis (Velvet and Brown Bent), Carex binervis and C. laevigata (Green-ribbed and Smooth-stalked Sedge), and Juncus acutiflorus and J. articulatus (Sharp-flowered and Jointed Rush).  One or two persons present, who had better remain nameless, declared themselves ‘lazy botanists’ preferring what they called ‘jizz’.  Doubtless there are things to be said on both sides although it may not be wise to do so here or indeed anywhere else.  James meanwhile was sensibly avoiding controversy by engaging in what is now apparently called pan-recording, his botanical attention being distracted by the myriad insects of the heath, a proportion of which were surprised to find themselves deftly pootered. Sticking to the botanical brief, Ron derived quiet amusement from presenting to the leaders the tiniest possible specimens of trees.  And so the morning passed quickly with more than 100 species of the plant kingdom ticked off.  Post prandial sherbet lemons were provided by Rachel and we were off again, led by Frances to a boggier region where we were too late to find any traces of Eriophorum vaginatum (Hare’s-tail Cottongrass) but caught up with the Carex echinata (Star Sedge) which had been on the wish-list.

Picture of botanists at Grafham

The next part of the day was over the road in SU91P. Here a rough carpet of Molinia caerulea led uphill and at its edges sheltered a number of species not seen earlier, such as Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) and an Eleocharis (Spike-rush) which took the fancy of both Dawn and Sue D. Again a total of 100 species was achieved with ease – ease not being the sole prerogative of the lazy botanists!  A sandy field of maize back in SU91J provided the last challenge – not the negotiation of the tall gate so much as the array of arable weeds.  A shrinking violet of a Geranium pusillum (Small-flowered Crane’s-bill), some heroically-awned Echinochloa crus-galli (Cockspur) and a Polygonum (Knotgrass) that even a lazy botanist would take the trouble to inspect.  Sue and Dawn, on the other hand, working independently, proved their specimens to be the elusive P. rurivagum (Corn Knotgrass).  They were still smiling as they drove off in their cars.  Their smiles must have lasted long into the evening for after careful examination in their homes they both reported the Eleocharis to be multicaulis (Many-stalked Spike-rush).