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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
These pages illustrate my love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. I love sharing. This blog is a showcase for my own photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics.
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