After the Flora

Latest sightings
Picture of Morus alba (White Mulberry)
Morus alba (White Mulberry). Photo: Sue Denness

I have already lost count of the number of times people have said to me how much they love the Flora, and then follow it with “but the map shows that [insert plant name here] isn’t in [insert tetrad], yet I’ve seen it there loads of times”. This is exactly as expected; even with tens of thousands of person-hours recording, it is inevitable that things will be missed, and new sites for some species will also materialise. The Flora is a snapshot and is an encouragement for further recording. Even if you are not a member, we want to hear from you if you have new records.

The lists of all plants recorded in each tetrad are available via the Sussex Plant Records part of the website, and the lists also include a list of common species not yet recorded in the tetrad, as well as some less common plants which were recorded there in the 1980s but have not been seen since. These are really useful, and are a useful aide memoire when you are out for a walk. Even in my home tetrad (TQ43H) the other week I found several species which were new records, including Euphorbia amygdaloides (Wood Spurge) and Azolla filiculoides (Water-Fern), the first of which could easily have been missed, but the latter is certainly a new arrival in the much-observed pond at the local farm.

So, what else have people been finding this year already? I asked Nick and Matthew for some interesting records that they have received recently, and this is what they said, starting first with Nick:

“Dawn, Sue and Jill have been providing me with a regular flow of cards, among them some refinds of Sussex Plant Atlas records, for example Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel) at Cocking (SU81T). Dawn herself sent in Scilla bithynica (Turkish Squill) from the car-park of West Dean church.

Picture of Scilla bithynica (Turkish Squill)
Scilla bithynica (Turkish Squill). Photo: Dawn Nelson

“A local West Sussex meeting along Chichester Canal yielded Morus alba (White Mulberry), a specimen of which Sue Denness has sent for confirmation as this would be a new vice county record.  She observes that three White Mulberry trees are noted in The Sussex Tree Book (Johnson 1998); she visited the one growing in the car-park of High Down Gardens near Worthing and remarks on the  diagnostic features described in Sell and Murrell: ‘Leaves hairy only on the veins beneath; peduncle as long as the syncarp’.

“Frances and I have also been looking at village greens and sports fields. The cricket field at Westbourne is still a gem with Orchis morio (Green-veined Orchid) and Carex caryophyllea (Spring Sedge) well in evidence in April – when the marshy conditions would have made any attempt to play an early match impossible.  The cricket field at Heyshott has also yielded some good patches of Carex caryophyllea as well as Nardus stricta: the latter is a re-find of an earlier record.”

From the other end of the county, Matthew sent me this report:

“To give a brief idea of what’s being seen in East Sussex, I’ll pick one or two of the more notable records I’ve received in recent weeks. Allium paradoxum (Few-flowered Garlic) as a garden weed, definitely not introduced by the owner (RPW) and ineradicable, he predicts lugubriously. Echium pininana (Giant Viper’s-bugloss) self-sown in Hastings Old Town (JAR). Wherever this titan is planted it seems to self-sow, at least in coastal tetrads (it probably couldn’t be cultivated in non-coastal ones). Learn the jizz (somewhere between Pentaglottis/Borago and Helminthotheca? see Poland & Clement!) and wherever you see this plant looming over a garden wall or dominating a municipal flower bed, I guarantee that you will find its seedlings nearby. I’ve also recently received a couple of reports of Tragopogon porrifolius (Salsify), at least one of which was a new site. This is particularly conspicuous now, its dull dark red starry flower heads newly on show.

Picture of Tragopogon porrifolius (Salsify)
Tragopogon porrifolius (Salsify). Photo: Chris Brewer

“Chris Brewer also informed me of a new site for Vinca major var. oxyloba. This variety is not that uncommon, and potentially every bit as rampant as the normal form, and is almost certainly under recorded. Walking about my own immediate area I found two patches of a snowy-flowered form of Oxalis articulata (Pink-sorrel), growing within a mass of the normal pink-coloured form.

Picture of Vinca major var. oxyloba
Vinca major var. oxyloba. Photo: Chris Brewer

“This theme of ‘unfamiliar variations on the familiar’ is a source of endless fascination to the botanist. Many varieties, subspecies and cultivars of familiar plants, both native and non-native, are not that difficult to recognise and all are probably overlooked to some degree.  Then, to push this theme a little further, there are the familiar plants in odd places. Calcicoles where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find them. Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s Sorrel) on a wall top providing the right conditions in a tetrad otherwise devoid of suitable habitat. Galium palustre (Common Marsh-bedstraw) in a damp neglected corner of a park, somehow! Sagina nodosa (Knotted Pearlwort) thriving in a town-bound cemetery. The point is that a record doesn’t have to be of a rarity to be of  immense interest. So have a look around your local area and see what you can find  and remember to do your records justice by making full use of the ‘comments’ column. They will be read I assure you!”