If you would like to record in the county, then you may download the County Down recording card here. Species lists should normally be within 1 km squares where possible (4 figure grid reference), with rare plants preferably recorded to 10 m (8 figure grid reference). Any notes on rare species found would be appreciated.
Graham Day, Tel: 028 9181 7710 (home); mobile on meeting days: 07764794687.
Co. Down recording in 2015
Monthly field meetings were organised to make records for the forthcoming new atlas, and in support of the proposed flora of Co. Down. My grateful thanks go to David McCormick, Margaret Marshall, Anne McComb and Mark Wright who sent records to me.
Castleward (National Trust) by Strangford village was visited in mid-May when most of the estate was walked. Many established introductions were found, including Polygonatum x hybridum. Other than the ornamentals and estate woodland, much of the land is given over to improved grassland which botanically is of little interest. However, a single specimen of Alchemilla filicaulis vestita was found on a track. Also notable was an extensive colony of white-flowered Geranium robertianum by the campsite.
The Eastwood sand pits in the south-east of the county near Carlingford Lough were visited in early June in fair weather. The pits provide some shelter from the wind. Ranunculus aquatilis was in full flower in a stream at the bottom of a pit where it was in the company of many damsel-flies. The sides of the pit had Spergularia media, Myosotis discolor and sand-martin holes. By the entrance to the pit, Ornithogalum umbellatum (Star-of-Bethlehem) was in flower.
Castlewellan Forest Park was visited in late June. Work had been done to restore the greenhouses in the arboretum, and the Spergularia rubra colony had vanished, probably due to use of herbicides. Crassula tillaea and Oxalis exilis were, however, present. Lysichiton americanus was present in one of the ponds by the forestry tracks.
The highpoint of the year was a visit to the Ballykinler army base in early July as part of the National Trust’s Murlough NNR BioBlitz. Part of the dunes and land adjacent to Dundrum Bay was recorded, but much remains to be seen, and this ground would be of enormous interest. All the usual native species found at Murlough NNR at this time of year were also seen here, but in greater abundance. Of particular interest was a colony of Rosa spinosissima x caesia growing by one of the access tracks, and Bromus lepidus on disturbed ground by some buildings close to the estuary. Murlough NNR itself was visited the following day. Crassula tillaea was seen on the boardwalk and roadside, and Erodium maritimum was around Murlough House. Atriplex littoralis was present by Dundrum estuary. The dunes held Euphorbia paralias and E. portlandica, Filago minima, Erodium lebellii and Cerastium semidecandrum, but large areas were closely cropped by rabbits and identifications were much reduced in these.
In mid-July, a note from Margaret Marshall led me to a Senecio inaequidens plant in the Cregagh, Belfast.
Walking along pads in the Slieve Croob hills in early August produced Hypericum humifusum, Myosotis discolor and Carex hostiana x viridula. Species-poor improved grassland made up fields adjacent to the pads, and the pads and tracks themselves were the best pieces of ground remaining in the low-lying hills that were seen.
The River Bann at Polands Bridge, south-east of Banbridge, produced Ranunculus pennicilatus, Sparganium erectum and otter tracks in mid-August.
Large numbers of Chrysanthemum segetum were seen in two small arable fields and Mimulus x robertsii was present in streams at Imdel south-west of Knockiveagh in mid-August.
The Bog of Donard, Chimney Rock Mountain, Long Mountain and the Crock Horn Stream in the Mournes were walked in beautiful weather in mid-August. Carex bigelowii and Salix herbacea were found on Chimney Rock, and a large colony of Equisetum sylvaticum was present by the Crock Horn. The latter also held Pinguicula lusitanica and Euphrasia micrantha.
After leading a plant identification day for the Conservation Volunteers at Clandeboye, an invitation was given to record at Giant’s Ring House, Ballynahatty in Belfast. This produced a few Heracleum sphondylium x mantegazzianum plants (first record since 1980 at Belvoir Park) and one Rumex obtusifolius x sanguineus.
A meeting for the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club at Ballyhornan produced an interesting record of 12 Crambe maritima plants. Walking north, Parapholis strigosa was found at Benderg Bay in a small area of salt marsh, and several species typical of light east Down soils were found in a crop by the beach. These included Lamium confertum, Stachys arvensis and Veronica agrestis.
On a visit to the Belfast Harbour Estate by the RSPB reserve in late August, several unusual species were found on gravelly ground. These included Blackstonia perfoliata, Filago minima, Galeopsis bifida, Myosotis ramosissima, Thlaspi arvense, and very large numbers of Senecio inaequidens. Immediately adjacent to the RSPB reserve was a population of Heracleum sphondylium x mantegazzianum, some of which appeared to be fertile.
Walking south from Killough in mid-September to check on the population of Artemisia maritima, Paul Hackney’s 1988 record of Glyceria maxima was refound in a small marshy area before finding the Artemisia. Asplenium marinum and Eleocharis quinqueflora were also noted close by. The well-known Mertensia maritima plant by the lighthouse further on at St John’s Point was not seen. This may have disappeared in last winter’s severe storms. On the walk back to Killough, Sambucus ebulus was recorded. This may be the same site where S.A. Stewart found this species in 1866.
Salicornia ramosissima was identified from specimens and Elytrigia x drucei recorded at Mahee Island, Strangford Lough in late September.
In late September, Ian McNeill’s first Co. Down record for Polypogon viridis, which he found growing in a plant pot at Ballywalter, Ards Peninsula in 2014, was followed up. The species was found, this time growing against a wall.
Finally, samples of Gunnera manicata were collected from Mount Stewart, Whiterock and Crawfordsburn for genetics work at RHS.
The Flora of County Down
This is a new project, beginning in 2010, for 10 seasons, to record the flora of County Down for a proposed publication. A new date class will be used, Date Class 5 (2010-2019), as initiated by the BSBI. This would essentially require that there be new complete coverage of the county. Species will be recorded to 1 km or better, with mapping to 2 km squares.
The current status of records held on the database Recorder for county Down is:
Total vascular plant records for county Down: 237, 487
- Date class 1: pre-1970: 6,411
- Date class 2: 1970-1986: 17,520
- Date class 3: 1987-1999: 105,397
- Date class 4: 2000-2009: 71,754
- Date class 5: 2010-2019: 36,405
No. of taxa: 1,872 [all status]
Programme of field meetings for 2016
Meetings begin at the time stated below and last until 5 p.m. or so. Please phone if you plan to attend, as if the weather is unsuitable, the meeting may be cancelled. The pace will be slow and all are invited.
Participation at these events is at your own risk – see the BSBI Code for Field Safety.
Programme of field meetings for 2016
Sunday 26th April 1 p.m. Bloody Bridge
Maritime and pathside plants. Meet in the car park at J389271.
Sunday 17th April 11.00 a.m. Cranfield
Maritime and pathside plants. Meet at car park at Cranfield Beach at J265108. We will record along the shore to Greencastle. Be prepared to be out all day and take a packed lunch.
Sunday 15th May 11.00 a.m. Dromantine College Estate
Woodland and estate plants. Meet at the entrance to the estate, J084354
Sunday 19th June 11.00 a.m. Tollymore Forest Park
Woodland plants. Meet in the car park at J345325; fee payable. Be prepared to be out all day and take a packed lunch.
Saturday 13th August 10.30 a.m. Belfast Naturalists Field Club at Whyte’s Estate, Loughbrickland and the Newry Canal, Scarva
Woodland and canal-side plants. Meet at the entrance to the Whyte Estate (Loughbrickland House) at the junction of Scarva Street and the Old Newry Road, Loughbrickland, J104425. Please park with due care and consideration along Scarva Street. After recording at the estate we will go to Scarva Visitors Centre (J065437) and record along the canal. Participants may wish to bring a packed lunch or eat at the visitors centre. Be prepared to be out until late afternoon.
Sunday 4th September 11.00 a.m. Kilkeel
Maritime and grassland plants. Walking from the end of the road by the shore at J320142 towards Lee Stone Point. Be prepared to be out all day and take a packed lunch.