2020 County Report for North Somerset

Helena Crouch & Liz McDonnell

In 2020, despite all restrictions, and cancelled field programmes, nearly 35,000 records were made in VC6, input to MapMate and sent to the BSBI.

Somerset Rare Plants Group (SRPG) held 2 indoor meetings early in 2020, but the entire summer programme was cancelled. To keep members united, Simon Leach organised First Flowering weekly challenges, with weekly feedback, kindly sent out by our Membership Secretary Ellen, and posted on the website.  A WhatsApp Group was established for members to share their finds. Members were invited to enter a photography competition, and as winter arrived a Mistletoe Survey was begun.  Details are on the SRPG website: https://www.somersetrareplantsgroup.org.uk/

Somerset Botany Group (SBG), Bath Natural History Society and Bristol Naturalists’ Society also cancelled their field programmes, but members of SBG went out recording in small groups through the summer.  Cam Valley Wildlife Group (CVWG) held four botany walks in August, for six members each week.  One member of CVWG went out recording alone almost daily, making over 5000 records.

The VCRs responded to survey requests from three landowners keen to develop their land for the benefit of wildlife.  HJC also undertook surveys of a LWS and a golf course.

HJC updated the Somerset Rare Plant Register list of species to Stace Ed 4 in early 2020, after the SRPG website was relaunched.  All species accounts already written were reviewed and updated; SRPG member Karen Andrews kindly devoted several weeks to reloading all the accounts and streamlining the RPR section of the website.  18 new accounts were written in the autumn.

Helena Crouch

Baldellia ranunculoides (Lesser Water-plantain)

Found in a ditch at Shapwick Heath NNR by Helena Crouch and Fred Rumsey, the first record for this hectad and the Avalon Marshes since 1992.  This species has declined in Somerset.  The rubbish photo shows how lucky we were to spot it!

Hieracium acuminatum (Tall Hawkweed)

Found on stonework of a disused railway bridge at Clutton by Helena Crouch a few years ago, but finally collected a specimen in 2020, inspired by Mike Shaw’s interest in Hawkweeds of the SW. Mike very kindly confirmed my identification: it is new to Somerset.  The specimen was almost as tall as me – not easy to fit into my press!

Lathyrus hirsutus (Hairy Vetchling)

Found by new BSBI member, Daphne Osmond, on the bank of wildlife pond at Alhampton, the first record for VC6 and Somerset since 1971.  The bank had been sown with a wildflower mix in 2014, but this would be an unusual component of a seed mix?  The photo is by Daphne Osmond.

Stachys annua (Annual Yellow-woundwort)

Found by Helena Crouch on former railway sidings at Radstock, second record for VC6 and first since 1908.  The only previous record was at Portishead Station-yard – a pretty Railway Alien in Somerset!