Durleighmarsh Farm

Field meeting reports
Picture of Malva neglecta (Dwarf Mallow)
Malva neglecta (Dwarf Mallow). Photo: Nick Sturt

Meeting date: 12 August 2018

(Leader: Dawn Nelson)

The forecast promised copious rain but to be fair it did not actually start at Durleighmarsh Farm until the moment the party of five set out. And so the fields of fruit and vegetables were duly surveyed for their tasty array of arable weeds in waterproofs, with Chaenorhinum minus (Small Toadflax), Erodium moschatum (Musk Stork’s-bill), Spergula arvensis (Corn Spurrey) perhaps the pick of the early part of the visit. Quite soon Elisabeth pronounced herself suffering from Epilobium fatigue but she rallied when some samples seemed to be candidates for hybrids of E. ciliatum (American Willowherb); sure enough, with Geoffrey Kitchener’s excellent key in due course they emerged as E. ciliatum x obscurum and E. ciliatum x tetragonum, two of the more frequently encountered combinations. Precipitation continued but it was never atrocious and the group cheerfully moved on out of the crop fields into a damp area which supported much Senecio aquaticus (Marsh Ragwort) and other pleasing inhabitants of soggy conditions. A bright green sedge which had declined to flower was the subject of some debate until closer inspection of the lower part of the stem revealed it to be Scirpus sylvaticus (Wood Club-rush), and this was confirmed towards the end of the proceedings when flowering material was found growing by a pond. Hedgerows yielded some alien plantings such as the variety triloba of Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) as well as roses of mixed parentage. And thus eventually we came to the aforementioned pond. There, while raindrops patterned the surface among the pads of Nuphar lutea (Yellow Water-lily) and a solitary fisherman looked out glumly from the back of his van, some fine examples of Carex paniculata (Tussock Sedge) were enjoyed and a craving began to arise for something edible and somewhere dry in which to eat it. In no time we found ourselves back outside the tea rooms – problem solved!  Over tea and cake we reflected on a wet but extremely interesting three hours with a Malva and a collection of other scraps to puzzle over later on.  The Malva growing as a weed in the cultivated fields proved to be neglecta (Dwarf Mallow); and there were two Amaranths, A. hybridus and A. retroflexus. It is some years since the Society has been to Durleighmarsh Farm. I well recall that occasion with the incomparable Alan Knapp relishing some unexpected finds in the sandy soil such as Lotus subbiflorus and Ernie Sears interpreting distant specks in the sky as interesting birds. Although the turnout for the 2018 visit was clearly reduced by the doom-laden warnings of meteorologists, nevertheless Dawn’s arrangements and leadership were keenly appreciated by those who donned suitable clothing and helped to load with well over a hundred records the fast-biodegrading recording card. From time to time we wondered if the East Sussex members at Rye Harbour were suffering worse: generous-spirited inside our trusty waterproofs, we hoped not.

Photo: Nick Sturt