News for 2007

Another new umbellifer for Hampshire

On 23 August I was walking across the South Moor west of Langstone village and turned off the public path to follow a tiny stream south into the SSSI area to check on the continued presence of Brookweed (Samolus valerandi). As I was searching the streamlet and its wet edges I noticed what I at first thought was a small and strange variant of the Corky-fruited Water-dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides) which is the only other white flower expected at that spot (SU 713049). A closer look at it showed that I had something more unusual and without thinking of my duties to conservation I collected the specimen for further investigation. As the picture shows, the most obvious feature was the two types of floret. Examining the specimen at home I discovered a strange mathematical format to the plant's flower structure in that the single umbel was made up of three major and one minor ray, the major rays had substantial bracts while the minor one had just a bristle for a bract. This pattern of 3 + 1 was repeated in the bracteoles, while just three outer florets of each ray had the large petals.

Orlaygra01 (38K)

©Brian Fellows 2007

On the evidence of a photo sent by email to Martin Rand he suggested that this was an example of Orlaya grandiflora and advised me to take the specimen to Eric Clement who, before seeing the specimen, was very dubious about this; but when he did see it and compared it with his herbarium specimens his doubts appeared to vanish. My present information suggests that there have been less than six British records of this species in the wild although it occurs in both France and Germany - another hint of what global warming will bring?

Revisiting the site I could find no trace of other specimens of the plant and its occurrence there is a mystery. Although the plant is available to gardeners I am not aware of having seen it anywhere before. Even if it was grown locally the seeds are too large to be easily wind blown, and while they have spines these are not hooked so would not easily attach themselves to e.g. a fox wandering through a garden and then over the moors. Further, since the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, the area concerned has been fenced around to prevent the many walkers and their dogs from mixing with the cattle that graze here - I cannot recall seeing a single person or dog in this area in recent years.

The only possiblity of introduction that I can think of is via the crop of Quinoa planted by Hampshire Wildlife Trust on an area which used to be IBM sports fields at SU 710052 - the crop was I think planted in the spring of 2006 and I first noticed it in Aug 2006. If the Orlaya seed was with the Quinoa seed I suppose someone from HWT could have carried it on their clothing some 500 metres from one part of their South Moor reserve to another.

Ralph Hollins

Spreading Hedge Parsley has spread a little

The Hampshire Flora Group meeting on the North Hampshire Downs south of Kingsclere on 29 July 2007 notched up an impressive species list for the chalk grassland of The Warren and Combe Hole. We were fortunate to get permission to also explore some of the adjacent arable field margins. Undoubtedly the plant of the day was found in this latter habitat. It was a clump of the very rare Spreading Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis). This has a much more congested and compact growth habit than its common relative Upright Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica) which also differs in having at least two bracts on each flower umbel. It was growing beside an uncommon grass, Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) - a voucher specimen was later confirmed as this by Dr Tom Cope.

It seemed odd that only a single clump of Spreading Hedge Parsley was present, so Sarah Ball, who lives nearby, decided to search other field edges nearby over the following few days. This eventually resulted in a substantial colony of around 50 clumps being found. Spreading Hedge Parsley is an arable weed that has severely declined in Britain in recent years, mainly due to the use of farming herbicides. Because of this decline the latest (2005) Red Data Book classes it as Nationally Endangered. There is quite a scattering of old records for it across Hampshire, but this contrasts with the last 10 years, where until the recent discovery, there are records for only three locations.

- Tony Mundell

Torilis arvensis2 (96K)

©Tony Mundell 2007

Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) found inland

Althoff2 (91K)

©Andrew Cleave 2007

It is remarkable how plants can be so choosy about the places where they grow. An experienced botanist can often predict accurately which species are present with just a cursory glance at the habitat. However there are exceptions. An example is this mass of Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) found by Andrew Cleave, and dominating the area around a small wet hollow on the edge of Chineham Business Park near Basingstoke.

Usually Marsh Mallow grows in coastal habitats, often in brackish water at the edges of river estuaries. However, it evidently does not need salt to thrive. Martin Rand has seen it growing on alluvial gravels in several places in France, well away from either the sea or saline springs.

It is an attractive plant, so it is often cultivated in gardens. Perhaps this huge colony has arisen as the result of some scattered wildflower seed?

Since these photos were taken the area has been subject to some major flooding, so perhaps that will spread its seed further.

- Tony Mundell

Althoff3 (260K)

Pimpinella peregrina - new to Britain?

At the Hampshire Flora Group meeting on June 10th, Geoffrey Field turned up with a specimen of an Umbellifer that none of us recognised - although Eric Clement suggested it might be the Mediterranean species Pimpinella peregrina - a relative of our Burnet-Saxifrages. Mervyn Southam, an expert on the family who lives locally, was later able to confirm this. It appears to be a first record for Britain, as earlier records seem to be referable to another species, P. affinis. The latter has appressed hairs on the fruits, whereas the photograph of the developing fruit on these plants shows the spreading hairs characteristic of P. peregrina.

Pimpi per 04 (31K)

©Martin Rand 2007

Pimpi per 10 (115K)

©Martin Rand 2007

The plant, which is biennial but appears to be well-established, is growing in some quantity in the hedge bank of a green lane at Compton, near Winchester. It is close to a house and there are other garden escapes established nearby, but this one is not an obvious choice for a garden plant. However the owner of the nearby house says that the verge was sown up with a "wild flower mix" after clearance of rank growth 3 years ago, so it seems likely to have been introduced at that time.

Hay-scented Buckler-fern (Dryopteris aemula) turns up in a new part of the county

Dryop aem 01 (77K)

©Martin Rand 2006

Hay-scented Buckler-fern (Dryopteris aemula) is a characteristic member of the Atlantic oakwood plant communities of western Britain. Although long known in the Weald of Sussex, it was first found in Hampshire in the New Forest (by Alison Bolton) only 20 years ago. Since then it has been spotted in several New Forest sites, and single plants have been found in two woods elsewhere in the west of the county.

This year two vigorous mature crowns have been seen in woodland adjoining the Hampshire Wildlife Trust's Hookheath reserve, growing on an old wood-bank. This is a first record for eastern Hampshire.

It is possible that the comparative lack of management nowadays in Hampshire woodland is encouraging the spread of this fern to new sites. Certainly it thrives on high humidity, and will often disappear if sites are 'opened up'. On the other hand, it may just prove the adage that you often only see what you expect to see.

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) on Martin Down

When out walking on Martin Down just after Easter in 1995 looking for Stone Curlews we chanced upon our first Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) on one of the Grimes Ditch Barrows since then we have visited the barrow regularly during April and have always found a plant at the site.

During this time we searched diligently for more sites but found none until 2000 when we came upon 2 or 3 plants on the ditch at Blagdon, actually in Dorset. The following year we found another plant on the barrow at Blagdon but we have never re-found it.

Last year we were walking in Spain during the Pulsatilla vulgaris flowering period so there were no records.

This year has been an exciting year on our first visit to Martin Down on 10th April 2007 we found 5 flower heads showing on the southerly barrow of the Grimes Ditch barrows These plants were squat, dark purple and heads slightly drooped (see Picture 1). This site had been fenced off to prevent the sheep from grazing. We then found a new site on the ditch of Bokerly Dyke this plant had a different appearance to the plants on the barrow it was larger, paler, and more erect (see Picture 2). We visited again on 17th April 2007 to find 2 more plants in flower on the northerly barrow of Grimes Ditch barrows these being smaller and dark purple in colour and 2 plants in the ditch at Blagdon. So hopefully these are signs that the population is increasing.

- Diana Hall and John Winterbottom

Pulsa vul 03 (82K)

©Diana Hall 2007

16 Years of Flora News now online!

Go to the Flora Group Newsletters page for a complete set of all back issues. Thanks to Debbie Wicks and helpers for processing the older documents.