Monday 1 January 2024

Wrapping up my Botanical Finds in Cornwall for 2023

 This is a short blog to finish off 2023 in Cornwall. As we start 2024, the daylight hours are slowly becoming longer but that is rather negated by non-stop heavy rain and gales of late. The following is a precis of the few interesting plants I found in December.

Whilst walking through a wet woodland, I couldn't help but notice hundreds of rushes, most less a foot tall. The look of the plant said it was Slender Rush, but I thought I would take a sample home to double check. Using a new camera on my 3D microscope made it very easy to see all the tiny parts of the plant on my laptop instead of having to squint through the eyepieces. This plant has its outer tepals much longer than the inner ones and project far beyound the nutlets and Slender Rush is characterised by that alone. Some guides say this isn't on a rhizome, but the one I pulled up was - but it was very short, perhaps 2" long from which arose several plants, giving it a bit of a tufted look. I hope to explore Juncus more fully using the microscope and micro camera come Spring when they bear flowers and fruits.

Below is Sea Spurge at Par Sands in seed. It doesn't look a great deal different when in flower, though the central bracts have now enclosed the cyanthium (sexual parts of the flower) hiding them from view.

Euphorbia paralias

On "X", formerly Twitter, every Sunday between 8-9pm there is #Wildflowerhour where people all around the UK and Ireland post finds of native or naturalised plants flowering in the last week. It's a great way to see what's going on in different regions and a way to encourage newcomers into botany. If you have trouble identifying your flower, you can simply tag it with #WildflowerID and one of several online volunteer botanists will soon provide an answer. Many thanks to Rebecca Wheeler for keeping this going.

(her accounts are @wildflower_hour and @botany_beck).

 Here's some flowering plants I found in mid December locally that I posted on #Wildflowerhour.

Of course as a botanist, in winter, I don't just look for flowers. I notice all sorts of plants and winter is a great time to spot rosettes. Most species have specific leaves and leaf arrangement which help you identify your plant, like this Sea Storksbill below that I found in block paving outside a superstore in Par. This was a surprising find as they are usually very close to the sea and this was about a mile or so inland.

Erodium maritimum

Whilst at Par Beach, I also noticed many rare Sea Knotgrass plants still had leaves on them. I had previously thought that all knotgrasses were annuals and died off and withered away as winter set in, but no, Sea Knotgrass is actually perennial. It's the only UK Knotgrass that is.

In the first photo you can see the edges of the leaves rolled inwards and on the stem, the very short internodes between flowers (they've fallen off now of course). These features characterise this species. In the third photo you can see the thick tap root, as thick as a man's thumb going deep into the sand. The winter storm tides cover these plants and wash away their seeds aiding dispersal.

Polygonum maritimum


The long evenings in winter also allow time for peering through a microscope at Polypody spores. The three species (and a number of hybrids) cannot be reliably told apart without microscopic examination of their sporangia and spores. I came across one that looked a bit weird, like a cross between Intermediate and Common Polypody, and I suspected it might be a hybrid, visually confirmed by it looking almost sterile.

So I took a sample home and after careful study, it was apparent that this was simply a Common Polypody that looked a bit weird and wasn't too good at producing spores. The sporangia I examined were full of viable spores, ruling out the hybrid (which is sterile) and the number of annulus rings on the mechanism holding the spores matched Common Polypody too. Oh well, nothing unusual, but fun looking and learning.

Polypodium vulgare

The final two days of December and first two days of January are when the BSBI hold their New Year Plant Hunt. Rather than explain it in detail, you can read all about it at

Lots of people all over the UK and Ireland go out and record everything they can find in flower that is native or naturalised in the wild on a 3 hour (max) walk. It's held over 4 days and the results are used to show trends on what and when they are flowering. Hopefully, the data will link into climate change so see what effects if any, that climate change is having on our flora at mid winter. You can go on a group hunt or go solo and I usually do both here in Cornwall. I often find new records too, with some plants inexplicably missed on summer surveys, but found now - like this Field Scabious below. Flowering on 30/12/23 by a football field.

Knautia arvensis 

Pot Marigolds are a common garden escape in southern England, but I don't often see them in the summer, however, you can't miss their bright orange flowers in mid winter. The one below had self seeded along a rural road wall, not far from a sports centre from where its parent plant probably originated.

Calendula officinalis

It's been quite a challenge to motivate myself to go out for the New Year Plant Hunt as the weather has been atrocious, with gales, heavy rain and even hail every day so far of the hunt. The gales and rain continue into January and as I write this, the windows are creaking and things are blowing around gardens with gale force gusts and driving rain. Having said all that, just half an hour outside with nature does wonders for your mental health regardless of the weather. Put the waterproofs and wellies on and go outside for a walk, see what you can find - you'll enjoy it.

Happy New Year


Friday 29 December 2023

New Species (for me) of Vascular Plants Found in Cornwall in 2023 - Part 2

 This blog continues and concludes the list of vascular plants found in Cornwall in 2023 that were new to me. I hope you enjoy reading it. Please see the previous blog if you missed Part 1.

There are a large amount of wild Geranium family species to find in the wild, both native and naturalised aliens, the plant below being one of the latter. It had escaped from a garden onto the verge of a rural by-way. The leaves looked like giant Herb Robert, but the flowers showed this to be Rock Cranesbill.

Geranium macrorrhizum

I hadn't realised we had Water Avens in Cornwall, so when I stumbled across some records for them I was keen to look for them. Their habitat was easy enough to find as they only like very damp or wet ground, but what did make it difficult was that all around them were hybrid swarms where they had hybridised with Wood Avens (see next species below).

Geum rivale

The hybrid between Wood and Water Avens - Geum x intermedium

Lesser Marshwort was another plant I had searched a few sites for and failed to find, however I had been looking for a much larger plant than they actually were. They are related to Fool's Water Cress (Helosciadium nodiflorum) and hybridise with them too. This is a large plant, so I had wrongly assumed Lesser Marshwort was large too. In fact, the plants I eventually found on The Lizard in a drying out pool were only a few inches across. I missed them being in flower, which is from May to June, as I didn't find them until September.

Helosciadium inundatum

It's about time we had some ferns, so here are our two filmy ferns that we have here in Cornwall. Again, they were shown to us on a Cornwall Botany Group field trip and I doubt that I would have found them without guidance. They grow in inaccessible dark cracks between the granite boulders on Bodmin Moor and to get any photos I had to take them blind with a flash. The crevices were too small and awkward to get down to look in a viewfinder and too dark to see anything in it anyway!

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense


Growing with it was Wilson's Filmy Fern - Hymenophyllum wilsonii, which in my opinion is the more attractive fern of the two.


Toadflax-leaved St John's-wort was found along the quarried walls of a disused railway near Sladesbridge. It's considered native here and was no doubt spread locally by the railways. Since they have closed down and the woodland has encroached, they will likely die out from the area soon, being overshaded and out competed for the available light. I think the only other place they are found in the south, is in Devon.

Hypericum linariifolium


Imperforate St John's-wort is one that I searched for in Kent but failed to find. It's only found at one site there now near Eynsford, so it was great to see some on another Cornwall Botany Group field trip, this time to Goss Moor. It's quite a strikingly different St. John's-wort and what strikes you first is the streaky black lines along the petals. Of course, the leaves also lack the transluscent dots found in its more common cousin Perforate St. John's-wort.

Hypericum maculatum subsp obtusiusculum


Several rushes follow. It's not surprising that they are new to me as they can be a difficult group to identify with certainty, but going out with experts certainly helps!

Bristle-club Rush - Isolepsis setacea

Bubous Rush - Juncus bulbosus

Saltmarsh Rush - Juncus gerardii


The elusive Frog Rush - Juncus ranarius


And finally, Heath Rush - Juncus squarrosus

Let's get back to some nice flowering plants with petals! I found some Box-leaved Honeysuckle down a rural by-way, probably owing its presence there as a garden throw out/fly tipping.

Lonicera pileata

Slender Birdsfoot Trefoil was on the Kent likely to be extinct list until recently, when a colony was found along the River Stour valley in East Kent. So it was nice to find out that I have several scattered populations along the north cliffs fairly local to me to go and discover.

Lotus angustissimus

Growing near to the above and sometimes with it, was Hairy Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Lotus subbiflorus

We tend to take Daffodils for granted as they are simply everwhere, however, the vast majority are cultivars of hybrid origin and have been planted, discarded or fly tipped along our roads and lanes. So it was refreshing to see our native Daffodil in abundance in several locations, but especially around Respryn Bridge near Lanhydrock House. They really do look a lot different (and nicer) than cultivated species.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus 

The lack of Sea Carrot in Kent means I hadn't found this subspecies of Common Broomrape in Kent, but in Cornwall, Sea Carrot is abundant, so it followed that Sea Carrot Broomrape would be more likely to be found too, and so it was. On sand dunes at Trevone.

Orobanche minor subsp maritima

I spotted some tiny Yellow Oxalis in a gravel car park that keyed out to be Least Yellow Sorrel.

Oxalis exilis

Below is another Oxalis that we found on the same trip to Hayle as the Fumaria purpurea mentioned in Part 1.

Broadleaf Sorrel - Oxalis latifolia

Early Meadow Grass found in Bodmin Hospital car park. I later found lots of it on a disused airfield near St Agnes too.

Poa infirma

A tip off from the VCR in April led me to a lay-by on a main road to see Dwarf Cherry trees, lots of them.

Prunus cerasus

I think everyone must have seen Curled Dock before, but this year, I decided to identify them to sub species level once they were in seed. Subsp crispus is the common inland form, subsp littoreus is found on the seashores and below is subsp uliginosus from the River Camel saltmarshes. Although it's likely been there many years, it's a first record for Cornwall, confirmed by the BSBI Rumex referee. I think I spotted some at Lower Stoke saltmarshes in Kent in November too, but they had lost their tepals, so I couldn't be sure.

Rumex crispus subsp uliginosus

When it is in flower, Heath Pearlwort is a pretty little plant, found on dry tracks, coastal cliffs and heaths, it's relatively common here, but easy to miss.

Sagina subulata

A naturalised alien, Krauss' clubmoss inadvertantly introduced into Heligan Gardens.

Selaginella kraussiana

While walking across a pasture field on The Lizard, I came across a giant groundsel like plant with toothed smelly (of TCP) leaves. It turned out to be Toothed Fireweed which is spreading from the Scilly Isles and onto The Lizard peninsular. Given it disperses seed by wind, I expect a rapid expansion of its range within a few years.

Senecio minimus

Another new species from the Hayle field trip was the Kangaroo Apple widely naturalised in the area from municipal plantings nearby.

Solanum aviculare

Each Spring, I have a look around for any unusual Dandelions to identify. This tiny plant was found on short coastal turf, and while it's meant to be fairly common, I'd failed to find it before.

Taraxacum rubicundum

Another garden escape was Lesser Meadow-rue, found on mildly acidic soil not far from habitation. though sadly not in flower.

Thalictrum minus

Narrow-leaved Clover is an alien species that I found growing in a disused field that was fenced off and about to be built on. It probably came in on farming equipment or possibly as a fodder crop relict. Either way, it is going to be bulldozed very soon. I'll have a look around after the houses go up to see if any survived, but I doubt it.

Trifolium angustifolium

There's not much to look at with Marsh Arrowgrass, but until this year it had eluded me finding it. Apparently frequent along streams and wet areas, especially near the coasts.

Triglochin palustris

My final new species found in Cornwall in 2023 was another alien plant that had found its way onto a rural road verge near Treligga, Pyrenean Valerian. It was last recorded in Cornwall in the 1950s, so it is an uncommon find and as such it featured in the BSBI News, Aliens and Adventives section a few months ago.

Valeriana pyrenaica 

I'm sorry Part 2 was a bit long, but it wraps up my Cornwall finds for 2023 that were new to me. I'll finish off by cheekily throwing in a new species I found when travelling back to Kent to see family. On the A303 on the Somerset/Dorset border I stopped off briefly to see the amazing Fly x Bee Orchid hybrid. It's well known at this site and has been here for several years.

Ophrys apifera x insectifera - O. x pietzschii 

I hope you enjoyed these plants, I certainly did and there's so many more to see, both locally and throughout the UK, that I doubt that I will run out of new species to see. I wonder what 2024 will bring? 

Take care and have a Happy New Year.


Tuesday 26 December 2023

New Species (for me) of Vascular Plants Found in Cornwall in 2023 - Part 1

 Despite finding a host of  new species in my first full year in Cornwall in 2022, there are always new plants to see and this 2 part blog showcases a further list of new species I found here in 2023. I have posted them alphabetically using their scientific names.


 My first species was Lesser Quaking Grass. I was familiar with Quaking Grass (Briza media) from the Kent chalk turf and Greater Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) from various pavements in Cornwall; but this species was much smaller and is found in arable fields in Cornwall. It is an alien species that has established here. It's quite odd that each species has its own particular niche environment that it thrives in, all different to the others.

Briza minor

Next up is another grass, this one being Marsh Foxtail. It's a relatively common plant here, but I'd not come across it in Kent, probably due to the lack of suitable damp habitats. 

Alopecurus geniculatus

Escaped and naturalised garden plants are a common feature of Cornish botany. The mostly frost free climate lends itself to many more species naturalising here than the rest of mainland England.

Below is Japanese Anemone which I found in several places, usually by habitation, but this one was in a lay-by on The Lizard heathland, so was likely fly-tipped in the past and has since flourished.

Anemone x hybrida

One of my favourite finds were colonies of Long-stalked Orache being present in 3 new colonies along the tidal River Camel. Prior to these finds, it had only been recorded once before in the county in a creek south of Truro. I had found several colonies of hybrids between this species and Babington's Orache, so it was great to pin down the rarer parent species. Having access to the BSBI Atriplex referee was a great help too to confirm the identity of these plants. Have a look back at my 2023 Autumn blogs for full details of these finds and how to identify this species.

Atriplex longipes

Another grass follows, this time it was Cultivated Oats found in reasonable quantity along a rural road verge with no arable fields nearby. I suspect some seed fell off a passing tractor at some point. It's a very tall grass!

Avena sativa subsp sativa

Soft Brome is very common almost everywhere here, but there is a very short coastal subspecies that only grows a few inches tall, and I found plenty along the north coastal cliffs. As you can see in the photo, a stunted Thrift plant is taller than this grass!

Bromus hordeaceus subsp ferronii

Next up are four new bindweeds, again, please refer back to my summer blogs for full details.

First up:

Hairy Bindweed - Calystegia pulchra

Pink Hedge Bindweed - Calystegia sepium subsp roseata

Hybrid Bindweed, Hedge x Large - Calystegia x lucana

Finally, the hybrid between Hedge and Hairy Bindweeds, new to Cornwall - Calystegia x scanica

The first of three new Sedge species, Oval Sedge - Carex leporina

Small-fruited Prickly Sedge - Carex muricata subsp pairae

Finally, Greater Tussock Sedge - Carex paniculata

Anywhere close to a large manure heap is usually a good area to look for Chenopodiums (Goosefoots) and on a walk close to Hustyn Wood I found Striped Goosefoot. It's not strictly speaking a new species as I have come across this in the past in Kent, but failed to identify it. I persevered this time. I think this is far more common than thought as it is likely very much under recorded across the country.

Chenopodium strictum subsp strictum

Yellow Centaury was a plant on my wish list, yet when I found it on a Lizard heathland track, I was rather disappointed with the photos. It's uncommon and declining, but still found on the drier heaths where the ground is open or disturbed.

Cicendia filiformis

In summer of 2023 I purchased the Hybrid Flora of UK and Ireland by Prof. Clive Stace. On reading through it I noticed there was a hybrid between Marsh Thistle and Meadow Thistle mentioned. We have just two venues where both species occur and one had recently been cut, so I went off to Bottaborough Moor in the north of the county. I only found three diminuitive thistles still in flower, but they looked intermediate between the species and the BSBI Cirsium referee confirmed the hybrid after I posted him a dried and pressed sample. New to Cornwall.

Cirsium x forsteri

Floating Club-Rush is likely a species I'd seen before but failed to identify it. However, once you get your eye in, it's quite easy to spot, looking like a lime green grass growing in water. Hopefully, in 2024 I will find it in flower.

Eleogiton fluitans

Going back to January of 2023 and Portuegese Heath was in flower along a main road in the clay country and also along the dunes of Carlyon Bay beach. Long naturalised in the county and apparently increasing its range. It's a very attractive plant when in flower, so I can see why it was planted in gardens.

Erica lusitanica

Common Cotton Grass is quite common in wet heaths and bogs here and it was also present at Hothfield Bog in Kent. However, the much rarer Harestail Cotton Grass had eluded me until it was shown to us on a Cornwall Botany field trip at Creney Farm. A week later and I found some in a hillside bog near St Austell too.

Eriophorum vaginatum

Back to a coastal area near Bude and I found Sea Storksbill for the first time. Again, I must have walked past this species many times. The rosettes look very similar to Common Storksbill, just without any flowers, but look closer and they are in flower, it just has no petals and the green sepals merge into the foliage, hiding it from view. There are actually 3 flowers in the photo below, see if you can find them.

Erodium maritimum

Purple Ramping Fumitory was on my to find list and I had visited a few sites where it had previously been recorded without success. On a Cornwall Botany Group field trip to the Hayle estuary, mainly looking for Glassworts, we came across several clumps of this most beautiful of fumitories close to the shoreline. The lilac-purple colouring was striking.

Fumaria purpurea

My last species for Part 1 was the rather small Field Gentian. I had searched historical sites for this species in August and September and failed to find any. My last attempt to find it was along a path across The Lizard heathland where they had been seen in recent years and I was rewarded with a few hundred plants scattered around the path. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy dull day, and Gentians only open their flowers when it's sunny, but great to add this one to the list of species seen anyway. Note the two large and two small sepals (it also only has 4 petals) that distinguish it from the other gentians.

Gentianella campestris

That was quite a varied list, but there's another list of great plants to follow in Part 2 soon. I hope you enjoyed seeing them as much as I did finding them.

Take care


Wrapping up my Botanical Finds in Cornwall for 2023

 This is a short blog to finish off 2023 in Cornwall. As we start 2024, the daylight hours are slowly becoming longer but that is rather neg...