Friday 24 June 2022

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 24: FSC Millport, Cumbrae Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

It is Friday. I am having a wonderful time exploring the small island of Cumbrae c 30 miles WSW of Glasgow, and 30 miles north of Ayer. It is in the Firth of Clyde and the next big island is Bute. I got the  ferry from Largs last night. 

I am exploring sites, ready for the two days Grasses, Sedges and Rushes course I am running tomorrow Saturday and Sunday.  The course is daytime only 9.30 to 5pm, but two people are staying overnight. People come because they need to do grassland surveys, do research, or just for fun.  Anyone can come but I think you have to be 18 or over.

Also staying here at the moment is the Marine biology course from Manchester University.

There are still spaces .. and now having seen the wonderful facilities and surrounds I say to you all even  more so "Do come!"

There are lots of monocots to see within 1/8 mile of the Centre. I explored in the sun before breakfast. It was light at 4.30am, but I did not get out till after 6am. Now I am trying to decide which picture of the centre to put on the front cover of my Grasses handouts. . preferably one with some of the centre buildings in the background

Can you help me decide?

False Oat-grass flowers near the pond bridge, FSC Millport


In the pond is growing Marsh/Common Spike-rush. (Eleocharis palustris)
This is a member of the Sedge family.

Saltmarsh rush - Juncus gerardii at the shoreline

Red Fescue on soil above the lichen covered red sandstone rocks of the shore, with the Museum behind.
View along the shore from the same place.

Close up of false oat-grass

Timothy Grass

One or two flowers

Meadow Crane's-bill and Yellow Iris

Northern Marsh Orchid beside the school children's barbecue site.

Dog Daisies below the children's adventure footpath in the wooded cliff

The Bug hotel:- Well they do use bamboo canes (a grass) amongst other things to make the bug hotel

Bug hotel

Marsh Fox-tail in the pond

Yorkshire Fog

Here is my bedroom where I am typing this.

Last night I arrived at the island. Here are two stone pillars at the ferry terminal.

and some of the lichesn on them: 

Tuesday 21 June 2022

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 12b: Carex elata - Grasses and Sedges and Rushes at Blencathra part 3.

In the afternoon of the Sedges Day at Blencathra Field Centre (the second day of the course) we went to the south end of Derwentwater.

There were lots of good grasses and some sedges as we walked from the carpark in the wood. But we were aiming for the flat area where the river flows into the lake.

We found the Bladder Sedge (Carex vesicaria) that I had hoped to find. It has spikey fruit, wide yellowish green leaves and some shoots are reddish at the base.

Below is a picture of Bladder Sedge that I actually took nearly 20 years ago at Semerwater.
Bladder Sedge (picture taken nearly 20 years ago at Semerwater).

Then we went over the bridge. 

Time was running out. There was a very big sedge growing in two or three tussocks near the board walk. "What is that?" the students asked. But there was not time to key it out then. 

"It looks a bit like C acuta," I thought. "but it can't be that because C acuta grow in beds, it does not make tussocks. Could it be C elata - or is that sedge bigger? It's a bit like nigra because the female spikes look blackish, but it is much bigger than nigra."  One of the students suggested riparia.

Next day at home I put my hastily taken, not very clear, photo into "Plantnet

and was amazed to see

1st choice C elata

2n choice C acuta

3rd (much lower score) choice C nigra

4th even lower: C riparia.

Yes it is C elata - "The Tufted Sedge" - 

Only C elata has fibrillae on the old sheaths, 

the old sheaths are dark brown, 

Closer view of the fibrillae

Carex elata flowers and fruit, sheath and roots.

Carex elata - close up of flowers

and it was definitely tufted. 

Three years ago the results of Plantnet were not that good, and required a lot of botanical expertise to prioritise results. It seems they have now got much better!  

Monday 20 June 2022

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 12a: Carex leporina - Grasses and Sedges and Rushes at Blencathra part 2.

We spent the second morning of the two day "Grasses, Sedges and Rushes" course inside looking at sedge structure.  (See day one here)

There are over 4500 members of the Sedge family - Cyperaceae family - in the world, and the Sedge genus Carex is one genus in this family. 

I had collected some Oval Sedge - Carex leporina (formerly Carex ovalis) from the rush pasture in front of the field centre before breakfast. Some of this pasture has just been planted with new trees.

Carex leporina belongs to the Vignea group  of Carex, where each spike has both male and female flowers. I  sometimes blithely say "In the Vignea group the male and female flowers are all mixed together in each spike. - but this oversimplifies it. In fact in some species of Carex the male flowers are at the top of each spike, and in some cases the male flowers are at the bottom. 

Each spike is made of lots of flowers. Each flower has a brown glume (scale) with either make or female parts inside.

Can you see where the male flowers (with anthers) are on this spike?

And where the female flowers with (now brownish) stigmas are?

Carex leporina on mm graph paper

I  like the name C ovalis better better.  It has oval shaped spikes
the whole head of several spikes is oval shaped,

It grows in oval shaped tufts. The shoots at the perimeter of the tuft grow at an angle radiating from the centre - as if they have been bent by being trodden on.

In the afternoon we went to the south end of Derwentwater. . but I'll write about that shortly.

I am looking forward to teaching a Grasses and Sedges and Rushes course at Millport on the island of Cumbrae near Glasgow on 25 June

Wednesday 15 June 2022

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 11: Grasses and Sedges and Rushes at Blencathra

 At the weekend 11-12 June  I taught at Blencathra, a Field Studies Council Centre. The two day course was "Grasses, Sedge and Rushes".

At an old stone quarry on the slopes of Blencathra,
above Blencathra Field Centre. Lunch stop with splendid views

In the acid grassland here we found nine species of grass and three rushes/woodrushes.

Although the course was advertised as two "non-residential days",  I stayed at Blencathra Field Centre itself as did several other participants. I arrived early at the centre on the Friday evening ready to teach the course which started on the Saturday morning.  There was a group of geography school students (16 year olds) That evening, the  geography teacher  asked, with a bemused expression

"Why do people come and study grasses?" 

"Because grasses are so interesting.. and important!" I said.  

"All the ancient civilizations started off in places where there were wild grass species with big seeds - which gave people enough time to settle down and develop civilizations. China had rice, South America had maize, the Middle East had wheat and barley"

"Please do tell your students that as soon as they are 18 they are welcome to come on such courses".

I had 16 adults in my group. Several people work for environment organisations or as environment consultants. Some hope to do survey work. Two were students. Three worked for Cumbria Wildlife Trust. One man had a small farm that on which he was starting to practise regenerative farming. At least two people were there as a hobby as they like plants.

On the first day we learned about the structure and terminology for describing grasses in the morning, then walked up to this spot for lunch to look for some grasses on the mountain side.

See more tomorrow.

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 10 (Fri) : Early morning walk


30 Days wild 2022: Day 9 (Thur) :Settle Skate Board Park

 The Millennium Garden has now become Settle Skate Board --err circuit?

30 Days Wild 2022: Day 8: (Wed) Petunia

Lichen Zoom Meeting in the morning. (Lichen Chat and Improvers Group

Emails in the afternoon - It is dark now.

I'll just nip outside, to do an outside activity: Here is a Petunia waiting to be transplanted into my hanging basket

Tuesday 7 June 2022

30 Days Wild 2022 Day 7: Embsay Churchyard recording

Churches Count on Nature Recording Day at Embsay Churchyard, North Yorkshire

Searching for creatures and plants in a 1 m square at Embsay Churchyard

See this Red Admiral at the materials table?

The Red Admiral just loved the Nature guides

It kept returning and returning to these fold-out guides

Wings  up

Wings down
Presumably finding a warm place to warm up.

Celandine leaves:  Tubers grow at the base or the leaf stem at this time of year. - Hence the alternative name "Pilewort"

Warted Golden Frill Lichen (Xanthoria calcicola)
on the wall at the entrance to the churchyard.
( have used this English name following a leaflet by Di Napier)

Eriophyes tiliae  Lime nail gall mite

A very pleasant afternoon enjoyed by all who came.  Thanks to the organisers from St Mary's Church.

Looking forward to hearing about the collated results.