The Flora of Worcestershire – Notes and Additions

Bert Reid

I cannot write an unbiased critique of Roger Maskew’s book, The Flora of Worcestershire 2014, because I have been strongly involved in the Worcestershire Flora Project from the inaugural meeting in 1987, through the creation of a charity in 1994, up to my withdrawal from the management of the project and charity in 2005. In my letter to the Committee, I wrote that “Both Roger and I are strong-willed people with firm ideas, and we disagree about many aspects of the project. The resolution of such differences can only occur if there is a wider body to which the issues and arguments can be referred. If this is to be a collegiate project, I think that it needs collegiate governance.” I also wrote “Any removal or addition or maps would require a full rewrite of the species concerned and I would not be happy for this to be carried out by anyone else. Individual authors must have the final say over accounts published in their name”.

The author will thus not be surprised that I have some reservations about the book, since we have discussed most of these over a number of years. The book is too bulky and the quality of the binding is far from ideal. Although I agree with Roger that the book should be made available in printed form, I hope that the book will be made available on the internet (as a pdf) as soon as is practical. The book would be easier to use if an Ordnance Survey Map of the County was included. Not everyone knows where the places named in the accounts are. I do not think that the brief mention of NVC classifications is adequate. I know that the author does not appreciate them, but many international and professional readers will, and I don’t see the problem with a brief entry like my soil summary in the first chapter. We had long arguments over maps, and I eventually agreed with the compromise, but am disappointed with the quality of the maps – I can hardly see the hectad lines, but that may be my declining eyesight! I would have preferred the inclusion of Charophytes, which are covered by BSBI and are well known in the county: our records include nationally important species. The Extinctions and Changes chapter was originally written by me but the changes and rewrites by Roger made the account so confused and difficult to follow that I refused to be published as a joint author.

The proof reading is generally excellent, but it was unfortunate that the rediscovery of Pyrola minor was attributed to P.L. Reake rather than P.L. Reade. I think that brief curriculum vitae of the major contributors to the flora (including the author) should be added. We know how difficult it is to find any details of historic people from herbaria specimens and the like and we ought to assist future readers to find a little bit out about us.

The book as a whole is curiously unbalanced and old fashioned. With little or no coverage of plant communities, landscape history, bryophytes, archaeophytes, IUCN status etc the book could have been written in the 1980s. The 2013 Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country is very different in coverage but is a good example of how a lot of data (and photographs) can be presented in an attractive and readable way.

Post-flora Records

There have been several species found since the publication of the flora. I am ignoring the Stoneworts, as these need a separate article at a later date. The taxa below are in alphabetical order of Latin name, rather than the scientific sequence used in the book. Some of the taxa included here are not recent records but were excluded from the book as being “hortal species and cultivars in gardens, the cultivated parts of churchyards, cemeteries, allotments, urban parks and planting schemes…” but these rules are not followed consistently. Roger Maskew’s record for Malus transitoria clearly planted on a roadside opposite the Commandery Museum in Worcester is included (with a photograph!) yet records such as the first species below are not included. Here I include such plants. All the records are introduced unless otherwise noted.

Acer platanoides Schwedleri group. Purple Norway-maple.

The Purple Norway-maple is a clear introduction, but Keith Barnett noted numerous seedlings from a large planted tree in the communal garden at Lansdowne Crescent, Malvern, in April 2003, grid SO7846. With clear evidence of reseeding and probable naturalisation it is worth including. One site noted.

Amaranthus hypochondriacus L. Prince's-feather

Princes-feather is a domestic species, developed in cultivation as an attractive garden plant related to the more common A. caudatus, Love-lies-bleeding. The only record away from a garden was by Keith Barnett, who found a single plant in flower on the pavement of Abbey Road, Malvern in August 2010, SO7745

Anthemis austriaca Jacq. Austrian Chamomile

This rare but increasing alien was first found by A.W. Reid in September 2009. It was noted with a very unusual mix of plants of clearly differing origins on an earth bank between the old and new roads on the B4624 Evesham Road, SP028459. There were two non-flowering plants, confirmed by C.P. Poland and E.J. Clement from a photo of a grown-on flowering plant. The plants flowered again in 2010 and my experience allowed me to confirm the next record, this time in 2012 by Keith Barnet on the B4211, Hanley Castle, SO839423. About 100 plants were flowering there on a grass or wildflower seeded verge.

Apium graveolens var. dulce (Miller) DC Celery.

This is another record from the earth bank between the old and new roads on the B4624 Evesham Road, this time in 2010. The grid reference and recorder were as my Anthemis austriaca but this plant clearly originated from market garden soil.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii Spach. Jacquemont’s Birch.

This unusual tree was obviously planted in the Pershore Bridge picnic area (SO952449). It was recorded by A.W. Reid in 2010. It is an interesting and attractive tree with brilliant white bark, and is becoming popular in roadside plantings.

Brassica “Mizuana” Japanese Greens.

This is yet another record by A.W. Reid from the earth bank between the old and new roads on the B4624 Evesham Road in 2010 with the very close grid reference of SP027460. This plant is easily recognised as a market garden plant grown for salads but I discussed the find with Tim Rich to see if he could give me an accepted Latin name: in his reply he says he is “inclined towards rapa as the ‘species’ but I really don’t know”.

Calla palustris L. Bog Arum

Bog Arum is described by Stace as “Intrd-natd; grown for ornament, persistent and spreading in marshy ground and shallow ponds”. We only have a single record, when Mr J.J. Bowley noted it as planted in Kings Heath Park pond, SP067816, date February 1990.

Capsicum annuum L. Sweet (Chilli) Pepper

This is a very strange record by A.W. Reid from an arable field north of Bredons Norton, SO932396, date July 2013. I was walking along the track looking for arable weeds when I noticed a patch of disturbed ground about 10m into a field of rape. I struggled through the rape to investigate and was astonished to see about 20 Chill Peppers growing in fruit. I then walked all around the field but found no more Chillies, though there were a few Phacelia, Buckwheat and White Mustard along the more distant edges. The source of the plants is uncertain, but I can only guess that a nearby neighbour had cleared out a domestic greenhouse and thrown the rubbish into the rape field.

Chamaesyce serpens (Knuth) Knuth. Matted Sand-mat

This is the most recent, difficult, confusing and ultimately satisfying find, by A.W. Reid on the 15th September 2014. I was plant hunting along Longdon Hill, Wickhamford, where among other things I found Blue Fleabane and Waterer’s Cotoneaster. I was walking back to the car when I noticed the Vale Exotics garden centre (SP062416) and out of curiosity I popped in to have a look. I saw the Tree Ferns and the like and was just leaving when I spotted an odd weed that I didn’t recognise. It was a sprawling mat, quite unlike anything I’d seen before, so I asked the staff if they had planted it or knew what it was. They said they hadn’t and found it nuisance weed, hard to get rid of and they were happy for me to take a bit. (see note elsewhere in this number of Worcestershire Record

Crocus chrysanthus (Herb.) Herb. Golden Crocus

The Golden Crocus has often been recorded in error for Crocus x stellaris, the Yellow Crocus. Earlier records have all been corrected or marked as requiring confirmation. However, in March 2013 John Day found the genuine plant when checking churchyards. At St Peter’s Church, Droitwich, SO902625, he found a small colony of about 20 flowering plants in grassland east of the church, established and spreading, plus a separate single flowering plant west of the church. He also visited Abberley Church, SO751679, where he noted a small group in grassland southwest of the church.

Diascia vigilis Hilliard & B.L. Burtt. Twinspur

I am surprised that this did not appear in the book. Roger Maskew recorded several plants on a trackside bank at Abberley Lodge, SO749668, in July 2000. The plant was determined by Bill Thompson and had never previously been recorded in the County.

Erica vagans L. Cornish Heath

This is native species, but not in Worcestershire. We have just one acceptable (if not countable) record, by Brett Westwood, who noted it as established in an old cottage site, previously garden, at Town Coppice, Wyre Forest, SO767761, date April 2011. Records like this are worth publishing so that the source of potential future finds is not forgotten.

Eryngium giganteum M. Bieb. Tall Eryngo

This first county record was found by A.W. Reid on Mitton Way, Mitton north of Tewkesbury, SO900336, date July 2013. I found a single plant of this alien garden plant, (probably cultivar ‘White Ghost’) on the pavement edge outside shops. No others were seen anywhere in any garden nearby.

Eryngium planum L. Blue Eryngo

This first county record was found by A.W. Reid on Holloway, Pershore, SO937461, date August 2012. I found a single large plant just coming into flower on the verge at the base of a street light. I have never seen this anywhere else in Pershore, and there was certainly no sign of it in any of the nearby gardens.

Eucalyptus gunnii Hook. f. Cider Gum

This Eucalypt was introduced by the late Fred Fincher near his cottage in Randan Wood (SO9172) with other plants such as Ivy Broomrape and May Lily. Many of these introductions gradually declined and then disappeared, but some could still be found very recently. It is believed that the Cider Gum was planted in about 1975 but was still present in 2000 or later when John Day, Bert Reid, Roger Maskew and others all saw and identified the plants at various times.

Galanthus woronowii Losinsk. Green Snowdrop

This first County record was found by Bert Reid at St Philip & St James Church, Strensham in February 2012, SO910406. A few clumps were growing in the churchyard with abundant G. nivalis. The identification was confirmed by Dr Aaron Davis at Kew from photographs taken.

Gilia tricolor Benth. Bird’s-eyes

The first county record of this attractive garden escape was found by Bert Reid off Queensmead, Bredon Village, SO933369, in August 2013. A small patch was growing at the edge of a closed garage area where an unofficial track enters a footpath.

Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo

There are three records of this tree. They were: in 1911, by a field meeting of the Worcestershire Naturalists Club at Overbury Park, SO9537: in 2005 by John Day, Bert Reid and Paul Reade on the embankment of the Birmingham Canal Spon Lock to M5, SP001898: and in 2010 by John Day at St Faiths Church Overbury, SO956374.

Helianthemum x sulphureum Willd. ex Schltdl. Hybrid Rock-rose

This hybrid between the locally scarce Common Rock-rose and the nationally rare White Rock-rose is known as occurring as a native in one or two sites, far distant from Worcestershire. The only County record, by Bert Reid in July 2014, clearly relates to the garden escape of a commercial cultivar. I found a single whitish-flowered plant on the edge of the track from Park View Terrace, Barbourne towards the River Severn, SO841569. The plant was a surprising distance from any property likely to be a source of the escape.

Heuchera x brizoides hort. ex Lemoine Coral-bells hybrids

The flora shows five records of Heuchera sanguinea, Coral-bells. A better understanding of the Genus allowed Keith Barnet to deal more appropriately with this recent record. He found a single plant in flower just outside a garden in Hanley Swan, SO812428, in June 2013. The earlier records should in part (and probably in whole) be attributed to the horticultural hybrid.

Hypericum forrestii (Chitt.) N. Robson. Forrest’s Tutsan

This is another surprise omission from the book. Bill Thompson recorded this plant in September 2002, from Hurcott Road, Greenhill, Kidderminster. He noted two self-sewn at the foot of walls, one on the opposite side of the road from the parent bush and the other some 30m. up the road from it.

Hypericum pseodohenryi N. Robson. Irish Tutsan

The Irish Tutsan was recorded by John Day in July 2003, from a shrub belt by a service road of the A491, SO911819. It was locally abundant from likely planted stock surviving and becoming established.

Laburnum x watereri (Wettst.) Dippel. Hybrid Laburnum

Roger Maskew and Chris Westhall recorded this hybrid in August 2003, in the churchyard of Martley Church, SO756599. Roger Maskew determined the identity but did not include the record in the book.

Liriodendron tulipifera L. Tulip Tree

There two old records of the Tulip Tree. The earlier was in 1886 when the Naturalists Club held a field meeting at Areley Castle (SO7680, Staffordshire) and noted “noble specimens” planted in the arboretum. The more recent was in 1980 when John Day noted the tree in Kyre Park, SO6263.

Matthiola incarna (L.) W.T. Aiton. Hoary Stock

The only record is from Keith Barnett, who noted it at the junction of Tibberton Road and Imperial Road near Barnards Green, SO782456, in September 2010. There was one sturdy plant at the foot of a garden wall, present for at least two years.

Narcissus minor L. Lesser Daffodil

Narcissus minor is easily mistaken with small cultivars of the native Daffodil, but Bert Reid decided to study the problem of identification in 2010. I started near to home where I saw a few small discarded daffodils in a layby on the lane from Allesborough to Ladywood, SO939462, and these proved to be the genuine Narcissus minor. Thus emboldened I went to my recent favourite site, an earth bank between the old and new roads on the B4624 Evesham Road, SP028459 & SO027460. There were three genuine plants there split between the two grid references. It showed that garden plant soil had been included in the bank.

Olearia macrodonta Baker. New Zealand Holly

The single record is in 2005, by John Day, Bert Reid and Paul Reade: several planted in a native shrub belt on the embankment of the Birmingham Canal Spon Lock to M5, SP001898.

Phaseolus vulgaris L. French Bean

This is yet another record by A.W. Reid from the earth bank between the old and new roads on the B4624 Evesham Road, in 2010, with the SP028459. The single plant is clearly a market garden plant.

Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl. Western Sword-fern

The first and only record of the Western Sword-fern was a single plant in a shady alley between houses in Bewdley SO782749. It was recorded by Brett Westwood and the Wyre Forest Study Group in September 2012, and determined by Brett Westwood and John Day.

Selaginella kraussiana (Kunze) A. Braun. Krauss’s Clubmoss

This is the first County record for this alien Clubmoss. John Day found it at Tenbury Church, SO594683, in March 2013. It was dominant over several square of shaded trodden area near the vestry door on the northeast side of church.

Silene coeli-rosa (L.) Godr. Rose-of-heaven.

This first County record was recorded by Bert Reid from Overbury village. In June 2013, I walked up to the start of Pigeon Lane, SO960378. Here I saw a small group of flowering plants on a grass bank by a bench seat. I surmise that these were the remnants of an original planting.

Smyrnium perfoliatum L. Perfoliate Alexanders

There are two records for this plant. The first was in 1996 when Brett Westwood was near the edge of Monk Wood, SO798601, and he saw the plants seeding well and establishing themselves just outside the garden. The other record was in the grounds and gardens of Red House, Eldersfield, SO793300, in June 2012, when the Worcestershire Recorders held a field meeting including John Day, Bert Reid, Ann Fells and Brett Westwood. The plants were established and showing signs of natural spread, likely from imported stock.

Sorbus thibetica (Cardot) Hand.-Mazz. Thibetan Whitebeam

This alien Whitebeam was recorded by Chris Westall in October 2000. He noted two trees growing on the edge of the curtilage of Hillcrest School, Woodgate Valley, SP012833. The plants were identified by Tim Rich. They were not obviously planted but were scarcely “in the wild” and were felled at some time before 2009 to make room for additional tennis courts.

Taraxacum cherwellense A.J. Richards. Cherwell Dandelion

This is the most important Dandelion we have collected in Worcester. In April 2012Bert Reid was looking for Taraxacum in the Upton Snodsbury parish and found an unfamiliar one on a wide grass footpath by arable, SO940538. I thought it was an odd T. glauciniforme, being a small dandelion without pollen, so I sent the specimen to John Richards. He was obviously excited by my find, correcting my guess (I was in the wrong Section) and writing “This is a most important record for one of our rarest endemics. Please return and survey!!” I have returned a couple of times in 2013 and 2014, but each time bad weather or holidays abroad have made a detailed search difficult, and I have not yet succeeded.

Taraxacum inopinatum C.C. Haw. Unexpected Dandelion

In May 2012, John Day collected some Erythrosperms from Cambridge Farm, Birts Street, grid SO782367. As usual he gave the specimens to Bert Reid to decide if they worth worth sending off to John Richards. As soon as I saw the specimens I got excited, because I was fairly sure that they included T. inopinatum, a dandelion I had seen away from the County and had half expected to turn up in Worcestershire. When John Richards received the specimens, he confirmed my determination, giving us a new county record of a native plant.

Taraxacum pruinatum M.P. Christ. Pruinose Dandelion

Worcestershire is particularly good for dandelions in Section Hamata of which we have recorded nearly all the British species. I was therefore very pleased when in March 2011; John Day collected an unusual one from the grass verge of the lane from Grafton Flyford to Himbleton, SO961562. I looked at the specimen and tentatively determined it as the rare T. pruinatum, previous known only from the Chester district. John Richards confirmed my determination, giving us another new County record.

Taraxacum remanentilobum Soest. Falcate-lobed Dandelion

This is another first county record for a Taraxacum species. T. remanentilobum is a Ruderalia described by John Richards as an introduced close relative of T. vastisectum with a few records in four vice-counties. John Day found it on a woodland ride in Haws Hill Wood, SO606654, in April 2011. The specimen was determined by John Richards.

Taraxacum subnaevosum A.J. Richards. Pale-bracted Dandelion

This is an endemic dandelion in section Naevosa, frequent and widespread in some areas of northern England and Scotland. We were therefore surprised when in April 2012 John Day found a colony of an unknown Naevosa by the A4189 Henley Road, Oldberrow, SP124648. The colony stretched over about 100m of grass road verge, most but not all on the south side. John collected four plants, that we tried to identify, but our experience and knowledge of northern Naevosa are rudimentary and we chose the wrong one of our final two. Of course John Richards put us right! I returned in 2013 with John Day but very few were in an identifiable state, with leaves poorly developed and most not in flower.

Taraxacum sundbergii Dahlst. Sundberg’s Dandelion

This is a rare section Ruderalia scattered in four vice counties. We added another vice county when John Day found the plant on the hedgebank of Lincomb Lane, SO825692, in March 2012. John Richards determined the plant.

Tradescantia virginiana L. Spiderwort

Spiderwort is a common introduced garden plant, often persisting when thrown out or spreading out of the garden. We have records from eight tetrads (seven hectads – SO77, 85, 87, 93, 94, 96, 98) between 1989 and 2013. A personal example is from Church Walk, Pershore, where my 1998 record says one large plant at foot of wall pushing up through pavement asphalt: known here for at least 10 years. Since then the pavement has been resurfaced but three plants appeared nearby in a rebuilding works.

Verbascum phoemiceum L. Purple Mullein

A 1995 record for Tank Quarry has been removed as an error, but we still have a Terry Knight June 2012 record of a single plant on a grass verge beside a path between Blacksmiths Close and Farm Lane, South Littleton, SP079462. There is no reason to doubt this record.

Weigela florida (Bunge) A. DC. Weigelia

The only record, in July 2013, was recorded by Keith Barnett from St Wulstans nature reserve, SO781413, as a single relic plant in flower.

Zauschneria californica. Californian Fuschia

This final record (alphabetically) gave me quite a lot of difficulty. This first county record was found by A.W. Reid on Mitton Way, Mitton, north of Tewkesbury, SO900336, date July 2013: the same date and grid reference as my Eryngium giganteum. The first difficulty was whether it was countable. It was on a footway edge of shops by a car park area, and escaped from the garden nearby under the fence. The second difficulty was what was it? The garden contained several patches of various Fuchsias and I thought it must be an odd Fuchsia cultivar but a long look on the internet showed nothing similar. Some flower images looked similar, but the very narrow grey-haired leaves were quite unlike any Fuchsia. I was almost giving up when I discovered from an American flower book I had been given that “Californian Fuchsia” was Zauschneria californica. With the different Genus I found a perfect match to my plant. So I resolved my second difficulty, if not my first.