Pretending to be a botanist

some plants
A pretty bit of the survey square

I did the second visit to ‘my’ Wildflowers Count survey square recently.

just reward
The best bit?

It was a nice walk on a hot sunny day with a pub at the far side of the square – what’s not to like about that?

I am now much better acquainted with black horehound and marsh woundwort than previously.

Because this was July, and the middle of the day, the birds weren’t too distracting though there were over a dozen Red Kites and a couple of Buzzards circling over a combine harvester which was gathering in the earliest of the rape crop in the distance.

The butterflies weren’t too distracting either – a few meadow browns were not sticking to the small area that could be described as meadow, but were rather indiscriminately flying over arable fields, through bits of woodland, over a river, past a lake, along the hedges – and all these places had flowers that I was supposed to look at. It was quite a novel and strange experience.

If you know as little about plants as I, then this could be a rather disorientating experience. I was only supposed to record the presence or absence of c200 reasonably common plants on my walk, but since some of them were completely new to me, I almost had to identify everything to know whether they were there or not.

Luckily I had a good plant guide, my mobile phone (for checking things in the pub at half way and for taking photos of identification knotty problems), a useful bunch of stuff sent to me by Plantlife and also, most useful of all, someone who knows a lot more about plants than I do.

I was very pleased I spotted the red clover first, but for the most part my role was to keep notes and say ‘is it really?’ a lot. And I did read the map and buy the drinks, so I had my uses.

I’m not sure I have enough of my life left to aspire to the next level up of this survey – you really need to know your stuff for that.  This, entry level of a stroll through the countryside ticking off plants, was demanding enough.  But it was fun. Even if there hadn’t been a pub in the right place at the right time it would have been fun.

If you’d like some fun with Plantlife (and BSBI, JNCC (they are such jolly japesters) and CEH) then you’ve missed the boat for this year but you could sign up for next year. And next year, I’ll be back and I bet I’ll have forgotten all the plants I ‘learned’ this year. Again, I won’t know my horehound from my nipplewort, woundwort, navelwort, ribwort and milkworts.

A lot of the square was like this
A lot of the square was like this



8 Replies to “Pretending to be a botanist”

  1. That looks like The Hare and Hounds at Great Addington. I don’t know my flowers either, but when I lived in Northamptonshire I hardly saw 14 raptors in total! And of course no buzzards and kites.

    1. It occurred to me, travelling from Salisbury to Waterloo, that Boodlejar might serve all our biomass “needs” without harming a single hectare of farmland

  2. I was wondering why your blogs of the last few days hadn’t had so many replies as usual, Mark! I may know why. This morning I had an email from your distributor to expect a delivery today between 1.23pm and 2.23pm (there’s precision, but I did pay £3.25 for the privilege). It arrived at 1.28pm. I had a vision of A Message from Martha falling on doormats throughout the country during the recent past and your followers immediately sitting down to get started instead of reading your blog!
    I have a dilemma though, I am half way through George Monbiot’s book Feral, should I finish it first or start on Martha?
    Many thanks Mark, I have sneaked a peep or two!

    1. Richard – please finish George’s book first, it would be rude of me to butt in. Anyway, his book is menti9ned in Chapter 8 of mine, so you might as well know what I was on about… I hope that, whenever it is, you enjoy Martha.

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