The Reenactment of a 1933 Botanical Expedition

The carnivorous plant Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia in the bog. © Karen Andrews

One of the Somerset Rare Plant Group (SPRG) meetings in August proved a special occasion. The event staged a reenactment of a particularly successful botanical outing of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) in 1933. The aim was to see if we could find the same list of rare plants in 2019.

An Appropriate Send-off

We all met in Holford Combe in the Blackdown Hills. We had a fitting send-off from the car park with a 1933-built Austin car and old vasculum. A vasculum is a metal container used by botanists to carry field specimens.

Send-off from the car park with 1933-built Austin and old vasculum © Karen Andrews

Car Park Withdrawal Symptoms

We divided into two groups in the car park. One group botanised around Holford. I was in the hill-climbing group. Our group leader was determined to cover a lot of ground quickly. We left the car park behind with barely a glance. You have to understand that this approach is extremely rare for botanists.

Into the Rain

The weather forecast promised a high possibility of rain. As the clouds blackened dramatically over the Blackdowns, a friendly horse headed towards us. It seemed to want to warn us about the impending rain, as it headed in the more sensible direction. The intrepid botanists continued nonetheless.

Into the Bog

We headed into the bog. In his haste, our group leader took a headlong tumble. The mire splattered in all directions. Luckily, our investigation of the bog yielded many species. I do not think that I could have found them on my own. They proved elusive even with so many expert botanical eyes working together.

The weather was not great for photography. A few of the more successful shots follow, despite some blurring. A photo of Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia, appears at the top of this blog.

The beautiful, tiny pink flowers of Bog Pimpernel, Anagallis tenella. © Karen Andrews
Many keen botanical eyes were required to spot Ivy-leaved Bellflower, Wahlenbergia hederacea
© Karen Andrews

Into the Woods

We headed into the woods after the bog. We took advantage of expert botanical assistance to find Hay-scented Buckler Fern. Unfortunately, the conditions were far too wet to judge whether it genuinely smelt of hay.

Into the Stream

Next, we scrambled down a steep slope covered in slippery leaf-litter towards the stream. We waded through the stream in search of Filmy-fern in worthy planthunter-style. As an added bonus, we were shown the gametophyte of the Killarney Fern. It resembles a green alga. Rare and vulnerable plants are often not the most inspiring to look at. They go unnoticed and under-appreciated without expert identification and knowledge.

Hay-scented Buckler-fern, Dryopteris aemula. © Karen Andrews

A Successful Expedition

We squelched our way back to the car park, clutching soggy notes. All faces were happy, for we had found all of our targeted 1933 species again. There was just one exception. No-one seemed too perturbed about that. Pinguicula grandiflora, Large-flowered Butterwort, was seen as an unsuccessful, ill-conceived introduction to the bog.

The Day’s Experiences Shared

We exchanged experiences in the car park with the other group. It seems that they had enjoyed the comforts and refreshments of the local hostelry for part of the day. Meanwhile, the hill-climbing group ate packed lunches in the pouring rain under a tree. We endured a thorough drenching, slipped in the mire, squelched through the bog and waded through the stream.

2105 Reenactment?

I wonder if future botanists will recreate our adventure in 86 years time in 2105? What chance do they stand of finding all the same plants again?

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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