2020 County Report for West Cork

Clare Heardman

2020 got off to a good start with our annual Co Cork local group New Year Plant Hunt in Glengarriff Nature Reserve on New Year's Day. It was our 5th year doing it and, between us, our group of nineteen found 50 species in flower.

Unfortunately, no other group fieldtrips could take place in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, but many of those who would have attended were enthusiastic participants in the online courses offered by BSBI Ireland: the workshops included grasses, sedges and aquatic plants. I was also involved in co-presenting an Introduction to Botanical Recording webinar with Sarah Pierce (BSBI Ireland Officer), and with support from Jim McIntosh (BSBI Senior Country Officer). The webinar was part of the Ellen Hutchins Festival, which celebrates the life and work of Ireland's first female botanist who lived and recorded in West Cork (H3) in the early 1800s. My field botany highlight was tracking down some old records of one of southwest Ireland's specialities, Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree), and finding some new sites in the process. Due to the difficult, cliffy nature of some of the terrain, this partly involved 'telescope botany' i.e. scanning the cliff faces from below and spotting the distinctive evergreen leaves and white, drooping panicles of flowers. Another tree, rare in West Cork outside of Glengarriff Nature Reserve, that I found surviving in similar crevices on the cliffs was Taxus baccata (Yew).