Co. Down, v.c. H38

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County Recorder

Graham Day

Mobile on meeting days: 07764794687

County report for 2023

Recording Card

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.

>> Down recording card (front) (back)

Botanical Recording in Co. Down in 2023

About 4700 plant records from County Down were added to the BSBI database in 2023. Many thanks to those who contributed, including Julia Nunn, Valerie Macartney, Jake Dalzell, Ian McNeill and Rhonda Ridley. Notably, Jake Dalzell has been recording on some of the western islands of Strangford Lough, and sent about 1750 records from his survey. These have been sent to BSBI, but have not yet been added to the database.

The New Year Plant Hunt again saw Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort) and Senecio inaequidens (Narrow-leaved Ragwort) in flower, recorded near the RSPB Window on Wildlife, at Belfast Docks.

In March, Diplotaxis muralis (Annual Wall-rocket) was re-found on the sea-front at Newcastle. In April, Cardamine occulta (Asian Bitter-cress) was recorded, and Sisymbrium orientale (Eastern Rocket) re-found, in Bangor.

In mid-April, a visit to Mourne Park near Kilkeel, now managed by the Woodland Trust, failed to re-find Viola reichenbachiana (Early Dog-violet), but did produce some clumps of Papaver cambricum (Welsh Poppy).

In early May, Pseudofumaria lutea (Yellow Corydalis) was re-found at Castle Ward, one of its few sites in Co. Down.

Unusually early Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. coccinea (Early Marsh-orchid) was found at Tyrella in mid-May. Vicia lathroides (Spring Vetch), Euphorbia paralias (Sea Spurge), E. portlandica (Portland Spurge), Cerastium semidecandrum (Little Mouse-ear) and Phleum arenarium (Sand Cat’s-tail) were also noted. However, probably the best find was a colony of Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Horsetail), which was growing densely in a small area of dune slack.

Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort) was present at Murlough in May; Erodium lebelii (Sticky Stork’s-bill) and Teesdalia nudicaulis (Shepherd’s Cress) was also found, but again, Cerastium semidecandrum (Little Mouse-ear) was not seen.

In early June, Carex canescens (White Sedge) and Papaver cambricum (Welsh Poppy) were found in areas of cleared forestry at Drumkeeragh. Several introductions were found at Knockiveagh, most notably Limnanthes douglasii (Meadow-foam) that was dominating a roadside verge. A native, Spergularia rubra (Sand Spurrey), which is occasional in Co. Down, was found on gravel introduced by a building site.

Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss), Huperzia selago (Fir Clubmoss), Phegopteris connectilis (Beech Fern) and Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) were re-found on an ascent with Rhonda Ridley to the north cliffs on Slieve Muck in late June. The cliffs and much of the ground was very dry, and the plants on vertical surfaces were clearly stressed. We did not see Rhodiola rosea (Roseroot), and will need to make another excursion to look for this.

Erodium maritimum (Sea Stork’s-bill), apparently declining and recently known from only a few sites on the Co. Down coast, was re-found at St. John’s Point in late July. It was first found here in 1888 by S.A. Stewart, and the only other record from this site is J. Harron’s in 1970.

The find of the year, Spiranthes spiralis (Autumn Lady’s-tresses), was made at Killard in mid-August by Judith Dalzell, Jake Dalzell’s mother and identified by Jake. This most important find, comprising about 150 flowering spikes, is the first in Northern Ireland and appears to be over 100km from the closest known colony near Dublin. A press release was circulated and the story was picked up across various blogs and websites, including the BBC website (northern Ireland page).

Sisyrinchium californicum (Yellow-eyed-grass) (first VC record) was recorded by J. Dalzell by Belfast docks in late September.

Following up on a record of a Thalictrum sp. (Meadow-rue) on the on-line database iRecord, Rhonda Ridley and I searched by the Black Stairs on Thomas’s Mountain in the Mournes. We re-located the reported plant using a photograph submitted on iRecord. It appears to be T. minus (Lesser Meadow-rue), and may be the same as that reported by the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club in 1983.

While walking to the Black Stairs, the well-known Arbutus unedo (Strawberry-tree) colony by the Glen River in Donard Park was passed. I was very pleased and not a little surprised to see that unlike last year when all seemed diseased, several of the mature trees seemed to be completely healthy. Disappointingly, there was no sign of younger plants.

Graham Day 29/12/23

Guidance for participants at field meetings is available here.

Co. Down Botanical Sites

County Down has many places that are worth visiting to record plants and the Site List (available to download as a spreadsheet ) is intended to encourage recording within the county. The list is not exhaustive and there will be places that are well worth adding. If you know of somewhere that I have overlooked, please let me know.

Note that Northern Ireland does not have many public rights of way and access may need permission from the landowner.

Rare Plant Register

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]