The Worcestershire Flora Project was initiated in 1987 by John Day and Roger Maskew and continues to the present day. It was always envisaged as a marathon rather than a sprint - it takes a lot of fieldwork to attempt to record all the vascular plants in each of 596 tetrads, with full six figure grid references and comments for the scarcer taxa.
Over the last couple of years the emphasis has changed from tetrad bashing to more focussed recording. This has partly been driven by the entry onto the database of nearly all available records between 1970 to 1986 in addition to the current project records. These records have enabled lists to be produced for each tetrad of taxa recorded post 1970 but not re-found since 1987. Any concentrations of such records have been prime targets for specific site recording.
We have also concentrated on recording recently described splits of taxa (such as the publishing of new subspecies) and on difficult and critical groups where full coverage will never be practical. In 2001 the foot-and-mouth epidemic restricted access to many areas so the opportunity was taken to improve our recording of the many garden escapes and other ruderals in Worcestershire’s towns and villages. The recording of such plants has become more fashionable since 1987 and this work has improved the consistency of our recording.
At the end of 2002 the average number of taxa in the 596 tetrads stood at 382. If the part tetrads around the edge of the area are excluded this average rises to 416. We have every reason to take pride in this achievement, especially when we started with an expectation of around 300 in the best tetrads - we now have four with over 600!
The two maps show the total number of taxa (adjacent page) in each tetrad and a grey-scale (this page) pattern of floral biodiversity by tetrad. These show some interesting patterns. The south-east of the county is clearly impoverished compared to the north and west, for three main causes: the south-east has a very long history of agriculture with early clearance of nearly all woodland and a predominance of arable; the geology and soils are more uniform than most other areas; and thirdly there are few significant urban areas to bump up totals with garden escapes - Evesham and Broadway stand out as islands of biodiversity.
Urban areas generally show high tetrad totals and Worcester itself is a real hotspot. The champion tetrad is SO87A with an incredible 651 taxa recorded. This tetrad contains most of Stourport, has the River Severn and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal running through it, and contains a very rich corner of Hartlebury Common. If it only had a bit of ancient semi-natural woodland as well it might reach 700 or more!
The last two years have turned up some exceptional plant records. In 2001 came the first record for Chaffweed Anagallis minima since 1837. This tiny plant was found on Castlemorton Common during a BSBI field meeting. Surprisingly, Harry Green and Brett Westwood found more Chaffweed in 2002, this time in Skeys Wood on the edge of the Wyre Forest near Bewdley. Other 2001 plants included Sea Fern-grass Catapodium marinum on the Evesham Bypass (see Worcestershire Record 11, p.19), two good Eyebright records found by Bill Thompson Euphrasia anglica and E. arctica, the re-finding of Swamp Meadow-grass by John Day in four sites and the discovery of two rare Mullein hybrids by Terry Knight at Church Honeybourne Verbascum thaspus x virgatum and V. pulverulentum x virgatum.
2002 produced another set of excellent records. Roger Maskew found Tawny Sedge Carex hostiana on Castlemorton Common, its second Worcestershire site. In a pond on the common, Will Watson found Floating Club-rush Eleogiton fluitan in possibly in only surviving county site. How many more rarities are still left to be found on Castlemorton Common?
Eight new dandelions Taraxacum from Bert Reid (6) and John Day (2) took the county total to 135 with another specimen from Papermill Meadow which national expert John Richards says “clearly represents an unknown species in section Celtica”. The main theme of 2002 was hybrids. Bill Thompson found the hybrid between Soft Rush and Compact Rush Juncus x kern-reichgeltii on Berrow Downs. Bert Reid recorded the cross between Creeping and Austrian Yellow-cress Rorippa x armoracioides by the River Avon at Fladbury. Will Watson found the nationally rare hybrid between Grey and Purple Willow Salix x pontederiana at Upper Bittell. And last but not least, Chris Westall hunted down two very rare hybrids of Fiddle Dock: with Wood Dock Rumex x mixtus at Cleeve Prior and with Clustered Dock R. x muretii at Clark’s Hill, Evesham.
As well as all this recording effort we have made a start on writing the flora! First drafts of a few of the introductory chapters have been written and the first tentative efforts have been made at a few species accounts. Much work lies ahead, and the finishing line seems a very long way off, but we are into the last few miles of the race.
GREATER WORCESTERSHIRE - TETRAD TOTALS 31.12.2002
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