The Crumbles

Field meeting reports
Picture of Carduus tenuiflorus (Slender Thistle)
Carduus tenuiflorus (Slender Thistle). Photo: Brad Scott

Meeting date: 14 June 2017

(Leader: Matthew Berry)

There was a time when the leader wondered whether he would be guiding a botanical field meeting or something altogether more nostalgic, his role reduced to pointing out where such and such a species used to grow. In the event, the gods of “progress” half-smiled on us, and enough floristic interest remained to warrant a repeat of a walk made in July 2016 with members of the Hastings Botanical Group. Attendees who had participated in that earlier walk could not but be struck by the sheer speed of change however.

Picture of Euphorbia exigua (Dwarf Spurge)
Euphorbia exigua (Dwarf Spurge). Photo: Brad Scott

The first plant of interest was Linum bienne (Pale Flax) growing on thinly vegetated, impoverished ground by Atlantic Drive, a few of its delicate blue petals just hanging on. We were less fortunate with Anagallis monelli (Garden Pimpernel) which, having shed all of its petals, proved surprisingly difficult to find on the flat, weedy ground, sandwiched between a car park and a cycle path opposite Bates Wharf.

Picture of Calamagrostis epigejos (Wood Small-reed)
Calamagrostis epigejos (Wood Small-reed). Photo: Brad Scott

The next stop further along Harbour Quay was a man-made shingle ridge which, besides bearing numerous tussocks of Cortederia selloana (Pampas-grass), has more surprisingly been colonised by damp-loving plants, including Juncus (Rush) and Carex (Sedge) species, Phragmites australis (Common Reed), and a large, probably growing, stand of Calamagrostis epigejos (Wood Small-reed). A single plant of Descurainia sophia (Flixweed) provided some interest in a flowerbed of the Harbour Medical Centre, a few just recognisable plants of Lamium hybridum (Cut-leaved Deadnettle) clinging on around the base of its stem. The stony ground on the north side of Pacific Drive has now been divided in two, the easterly half partitioned off and under development. The low, sandy bank which forms the beginning of this ground, however, was more or less untouched, and we found Galium parisiense (Wall Bedstraw) exactly where it had been seen the previous year. Verbena rigida (Slender Vervain) was flowering well, while the flowers of Malva alcea (Greater Musk-mallow), growing fifty metres away, were still tightly in bud. On the other side of the bank we noted the shiny green, patch-forming leaves and curious globular flower heads of Acaena novae-zelandae (Pirri-pirri–bur). The sandy, gravelly substrate here, criss-crossed by dog walkers, is clearly to its liking, the number of plants having exploded since it was first observed in 2014: the dry open conditions of the site are threatened by this species almost as much as by new housing. The flowering and fruiting remains of Trifolium resupinatum (Reversed Clover) were seen on the verge of Old Martello Road as we headed southwards in the direction of the beach.

Picture of Cynosurus echinatus (Rough Dog's-tail)
Cynosurus echinatus (Rough Dog’s-tail). Photo: Brad Scott

On the beach itself the main interest was also provided by legumes, Melilotus indicus (Small Melilot), Medicago polymorpha (Toothed Medick), Trifolium scabrum (Rough Clover), T. striatum (Knotted Clover), and a decidedly incongruous population of T. hybridum (Alsike Clover), as well as one or two self-sown Cordyline australis (Cabbage-palms). The final leg of the walk took in a single plant of Polycarpon tetraphyllum (Four-leaved Allseed), and scattered plants of Juncus gerardii (Saltmarsh Rush) on dampish, sandy, saline ground close to the shops and eateries of the Waterfront.

I hope the ten members who attended thought it had been worth the journey, however far. It was certainly a great pleasure to show them some of the botanical riches of this area while they still remain.