|THE FRIENDS OF
Number / Rhif 10 January / Ionawr 2001
Happy new year to all our Friends!
I'd like to begin by expressing our thanks to Pauline Perry, who stepped down as chairman in November 2000. Pauline has guided and encouraged us since the beginning of the Friends in 1997. Chairing meetings of volunteers is not always easy, and Pauline was masterful in cajoling volunteers into taking on the less popular tasks! She has not left us, however, and we are delighted that she is continuing her very active support on the Committee.
With so much happening behind the scenes, Treborth is an extremely exciting place at the moment, and it's a real honour to take up the role of Chairman at this time. I have a real vision of Treborth as one of Britain's premier Botanic Gardens, drawing on its exceptional potential as a place of education, research and recreation. In fulfilling these rôles, it will serve the University, the local community, and the wider public. We have a real gem of a place here, and I sincerely hope we can realise its full potential. Over the last few years, Pauline and the Committee have worked tirelessly to sow the seeds of change (pardon the pun!). During my time as Chairman, I'll do all I possibly can to help bring these plans to fruition.
The foundations of this vision are already in place. The Friends have commissioned David Toyne, a horticultural consultant, to write a development report and plan for Treborth. This is now complete, and it is a superb document, detailing the present rôles of the garden, suggesting routes for future development, and outlining a step-by-step development plan. Central to the report is the vital rôle the Friends play in the current life of the garden, and will play in any future development.
Unfortunately, however, we are severely limited by funding and manpower. All the buildings and greenhouses desperately need refurbishing or replacing, and the gardens need a level of development that current University funds cannot provide. The sources of funding are many and varied, and the University and the Friends are looking into many options at the moment. The scale of development obviously depends on the size of funding we can secure, but there is much we can do in the meantime, basic ground work if you like, that can begin straight away. And this is where you come in.
As I mentioned in the last Newsletter, the volunteer work at Treborth is having a wonderful effect on the gardens. Because of this inspirational contribution, we hope to encourage as many of you as possible to get involved in the diverse aspects and activities of Treborth during 2001.
If you are willing to help in the garden, we'd really like to hear from you! Not all these ideas involve gardening; there are projects everyone can take part in, but we need a dedicated band of volunteers upon which we can call. In turn, we'd like to offer training to those of you that volunteer, teaching you more about the garden, about horticulture, and about the rôle that we hope Treborth will play in the wider community. Areas in which you can help include:
Nominating to care for a particular plant collection or border
Develop paths and access around the garden
Renovate severely overgrown borders, and plan and plant new ones
Develop one or more National Collections
Help in management of the woodland areas
Assist in producing and mailing the Newsletter
Help in translating documents and leaflets into Welsh
Help develop the database of species in the collections
Begin permanent labeling of plants in the garden
Initiate and develop links with British and overseas Botanic Gardens
Design new leaflets for walks around the garden
We also hope we'll be able to learn from your own experiences and expertise, so that you can contribute directly to the development of the Botanic Garden.
If you would like to help us in the forthcoming year, please complete the enclosed slip and return it to the address given. We'll then have an idea of the number of volunteers, and can plan and coordinate events accordingly. This is your chance to be involved in the exciting future of a very special place!
Finally, a huge thanks to everyone that has contributed to this Newsletter, your articles are greatly valued. I would like to point out that any Welsh language articles would be greatly welcomed and that our aim in future is to produce a bilingual Newsletter, in line with our commitment to bilingualism in all aspects of Treborth. Mae'n ddrwg gen i am y diffyg Cymraeg yn y rhifyn hwn ond da' ni'n gobeithio sicrhau mwy o arian i'n galluogi i gynhyrchu cylchlythyr ddwyieithog yn y dyfodol. Rhaid cropian cyn cerdded!
The next edition of the Newsletter is due out in May 2001. As always, all articles will be gratefully received (preferably on disk); please submit any contributions to me by 1st April 2001.
Trevor Dines (Newsletter Editor)
Rhyd y Fuwch, Bethel, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 3PS.
Thank you to all Members who have renewed their membership. We really appreciate your support for Treborth, and hope you get as much out of the events and talks we organise as we do. Thank you also, to those of you who have used our new Standing Order. Sorry for any confusion in the last Newsletter, it is a Standing Order, not a Direct Debit.
This will be the last edition of the Newsletter for those of you who have not renewed your subscriptions, so do it NOW PLEASE! We do not want to loose your valued Membership and I am sure you do not want to miss out on the exciting developments that we hope are about to happen in the garden.
Hazel Cave (Membership Secretary)
"Friends of Botanic Gardens" CONFERENCE AT LEICESTER UNIVERSITY
On 19th September I headed for Leicester with Hazel Cave, our Membership Secretary. We were to spend two nights at the University to attend a conference organised by PlantNet for Friends of Botanic Gardens.
We were among over 40 representatives of 29 Botanic Gardens and Arboreta from as far afield as Aberdeen and the Isle of Wight. The day began with a welcome by the Vice-chancellor of Leicester University who expressed his commitment to the value of their Botanic Garden. The morning session was chaired by Dr Richard Gornel, Director of the Botanic Garden who first introduced Judy Cheney, Administrator of PlantNet. In her opening talk Judy enlarged upon her statement that support for the Garden was paramount and more important than benefits to members. The rest of the morning consisted of discussion and brief reports from members of five of the participating gardens to share their experiences.
The afternoon session took the form of workshops for which participants could select three topics. Hazel joined a group discussing community links and I joined one on fund-raising. Dr David Rae, Chair of PlantNet, and Director of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, chaired the feedback from the groups and a final discussion session. A great deal of useful information was obtained and some good ideas to try out at Treborth. But it was also encouraging to learn of the problems that other gardens have faced and, as we are a considerably younger Friends group than those for most other gardens, to gain some idea of the possibilities we should aim for.
At the beginning of the afternoon session we were divided into smaller groups for a guided tour of the Botanic Garden which surrounded the residences. The guides were volunteers from the Friends of Leicester University Botanic Garden who have a course of training to give them the information to pass on to visitors. The tour was short but we were fortunate in having an extra night so that we could spend some more time walking around after the conference. The well maintained area was developed from the gardens of four private houses purchased by the University some 40 years ago and merged into one area of 16 acres. They contain many interesting plants including four National Collections - Fuchsia, Aubretia, Skimmia and naturally occurring cultivars of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. An alpine house and a succulent house containing a good variety of cacti and other succulents all planted out in gravel covered ground, were also open to visitors. The garden is only open to the general public on weekdays from 9 am to 4.30 pm but Friends have a means of entry over the evening or weekends.
Pauline Perry (Committee Member)
RECORDING TREBORTH’S COLLECTION
Cataloguing plants in a botanic garden is essential for communicating the value of its collection to the public. It is also important for exchanging information with other gardens so that the world’s plant diversity can be preserved efficiently.
Over the summer I set up a database that will eventually list all the species and varieties at Treborth. As well as showing where each species can be found in the gardens, the database includes interesting information on each plant, such as geographical range, economic uses and any interesting botanical characteristics.
Native plants in the woods and grassy areas of Treborth have been recorded including the unusual Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) and the numbers of Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) which can be seen in abundance during the summer months in the meadow patches.
Further work on the database will be needed to bring Treborth in line with other botanic gardens. Data such as where and when the plant was collected from and any IUCN Red Data Book assignments will be extremely useful to realise the full value of Treborth’s plant collection.
Katherine Vint (Student Representative)
ADVANCE NOTICE - Friends Coach Trip to Bristol, Devon and Cornwall
September 13th to 18th 2001 (4 nights)
By popular demand, the Friends are arranging a tour for the Autumn. Total cost will be approximately £260, and full details and itinerary will be in the next Newsletter, but we hope to visit Bristol University Botanic Garden, RHS Garden Rosemoor, The Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. We are compiling a list of those expressing an interest, so please notify Ann Wood (on 01248 490896) by 10th February 2001 if you would like your name added to the list.
Ann Wood (Secretary)
FRIENDS OF TREBORTH EVENTS
"Lands of Fire and Ice" (or P-P-Pick up a Penguin)
7th September 2000
A large audience gathered at the University of Wales, Bangor, for Daniel Brown’s talk on his recent travels. He started with thanks to the many sponsors that enabled him to join the 4 month expedition with the British Schools Exploring Society Millennium Expedition.
Then energetically Dan revealed his journey of a life time. Breathtaking photography took us to amazing regions of Antarctica, sub-Antarctic islands and southern South America. This required a large number of wonderful wildlife slides to deliver the adventure to us, which proved to be an enormous experience, for such a young person, and a global advantage in his studies in ecology at the University of East Anglia.
Journeying from the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, and the Beagle Channel, the Russian expedition ship sailed through forty foot waves of the southern ocean to Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands.
Dramatic icebergs and a wealth of wildlife followed, with the world record three meter wingspan of the Wandering Albatross, huge elephant seals, dolphins and whales, along with commorant, sheathbills, skuas and flightless steamer ducks. Dan’s account included stunning and often comical close-up photography of the Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, Magellanic and Rockhopper penguins.
In the South Shetland’s the expedition visited Deception Island, home for more than 50,000 pairs of Chinstrap Penguins. The massive sheltered natural harbour that is their home is formed from a sea-breached volcanic crater, historically subject to rival national claims and sadly an anchorage for whale factory ships.
On the magical mainland of the Antarctic peninsula were colonies of Adelie penguins. Further north on South Georgia the expedition split into smaller study groups for research into the population dynamics of the reindeer which were introduced in 1910. A problem highlighted was the long term effects of animal grazing on the tall native tussock grass (Poa flabellata). The rugged island’s highest point is Mt. Paget (2934 m) and a reminder of the historic and arduous past was a photograph of Ernest Shackleton’s grave (1874 – 1922) in the cemetery of the old whaling station at Grytviken.
More research was conducted in the remote, treeless, West Falklands at Ten Shilling Bay Peninsula near the small settlement of Port Stevens. Here rugged headlands are home for thousands of Rockhopper penguins and wide sandy beaches for the Gentoo colonies. These were attended by a rare raptor, the Striated Caracara (Phalcoboenus australis). On the sandy beaches were drifts of robust, silver leafed Sea Cabbage (Senecio candicans) and in January 2000 the yellow flowers were in full bloom. Over moist rocks were colonies of the impressive cushions of Balsam Bog (Bolax gemmifera), a member of the carrot family and an example of adaptation to the extreme environment. At the large school in Stanley the group gave talks about their expedition and conducted satellite links with various schools in the U.K. Time also to mobile phone home!
Journeying south of Punta Arenas in a virtually unexplored region of Tierra de Fuego added a sense of special achievement to Dan’s austral experiences. An area sandwiched between the Cordillera Darwin and Peninsula Brecknock provided the opportunity to explore dense forest and a rare glimpse of the often cloud covered Mt. Sarmiento (2235 m) on a photogenic clear day. The party followed difficult boulder strewn streams through thick forest of evergreen Nothofagus betuloides which was interspersed with deciduous Nothofagus pumilo and a tangle of shrubs. Robust ferns included Blechnum magellanicum and soft shady patches of the filmy fern Hymenophyllum secundum.
The expedition then came to a close, and Dan travelled on in solo by bus, first visiting the dramatic mountains of Torres de Paine National Park. Here the wildlife wonders such as the Andean Condor, Chilean Flamingo and the camel-like Guanaco are abundant. The area is noted for a high population of the Andean Puma. The outstanding scenery included the extensive ice fields of Glacier Grey and the individual vertical tower of Paine which is as tall as Ben Nevis.
Near the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia is where the Welsh first settled in 1865 at Puerto Madryn and during a visit to the region Dan was able to speak Welsh for a week!
His presentation ended with music set to a series of beautiful slides and Dan concluded his journey of a lifetime across the Andes to the Nahuelbuto National Park in Chile. Here we saw prehistoric trunks of the Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana) in a dinosaur looking landscape and Dan’s own footprints in the sand.
"The Evolution of the Biosphere, a story of green stuff and brown stuff"
Talk by Dr Maurice Lock at the FTBG AGM, 12th October 2000.
Following after the AGM, Maurice Lock gave a marvellously clear, thought provoking, and entertaining address on long-term changes in the biosphere, as seen from a non-human perspective. Our human view is selectively coloured by changes in what has been familiar to us over our own limited life span. Comparing earth's history to a 1½ hour film (of 129600 frames), he pointed out that the last 29,000 years would be the equivalent of only one frame. "So what happened to the rest of the movie? We think we can stop the film?". He contended that current changes in the biosphere are part of the normal process, seeing the biosphere as a self-contained, self-sustaining system with stochastic and cyclic changes being normal.
Given that the green stuff represents live primary producers, and the brown stuff dead ones, how does the cycle keep turning from one to the other? There is a myth that plants are primarily consumed and assimilated by animals. But plants have to die and decompose before they can be assimilated - cattle are "mobile compost heaps", for it is the microbes of the rumen which break down the fodder to provide energy for the animal. "Microbes keep the whole show running", though it should be remembered that much of the green stuff can be broken up by other means, such as degradation by UV light, or decomposition by enzymes secreted by fungi as well as extra-cellular microbial enzymes. Hence the whole life process, the interconversion of green to brown stuff, is underpinned by microbes, enzymes, and UV light. Volcanic activity also plays a crucial role in development of the biosphere in the long term; through its effects, together with those of fire, ice, and meteorite impacts, life forms have come and gone.
Is climatic change really a sign of impending doom? The world has "been there before"!, there have been many past cycles of ice-house/greenhouse effect, with enormous changes in carbon dioxide and oxygen over time. Temperature changes may be inconvenient for human beings, but not a threat to the whole of life. As for the effect of the ozone hole on UV radiation, since there is 3 times as much UV light at the equator than enters through the hole, and since UV has positive as well as negative influence on the biosphere, the ozone hole is not likely to be a fundamental long-term problem for its survival.
What about threats of reduction in biodiversity? There are certain key species which are crucial to the maintenance of particular ecosystems, beavers for example. But are we overly concerned about the extinction of beavers from the UK, the loss of which must have caused profound changes in the local ecosystem of their day? "If its not one set of organisms it will be another", and in the long run "biosphere function is highly resilient to trauma".
Pat Denne (Committee Member)
"Peruvian Tour of Discovery"
16th November 2000
On a beastly wet and windy November night, 40 or so Friends and guests were transported by Paul Goddard from the Brambell building to Peru. By using a variety of media, including video we crashed in a bus round precipitous roads, wallowed in a canoe, and tramped up hot and dusty tracks with Paul and Jane. This fascinating talk was presented in two parts, with an interval for tea, where in the common room a marvellous display of Peruvian artefacts, rugs, crafts and capes, many in alpaca, were set off by posters and photographs.
In the first part Paul took us from the capital, Lima, up the coast to Chiclayo, then due East, over the Andes to Cajamarca, the journey ending in the steamy Amazon basin. I was particularly intrigued by the ruins of a huge fort at Kuelap. Within the walls, the natural vegetation had escaped the vagaries of sheep or goats and trees, festooned with epiphytic orchids towered over the plain below.
The second half of the talk was given by Kevin Stables, who gave us a good insight into the social and historical background to the modern towns of Peru, with some marvellous slides of the varied architectural styles over the years.
Paul has asked me to thank you for such a great turn-out, he has six people booked for a tour starting on May 6th from Manchester Airport. Four more will make up the party! not to be missed, - please contact Paul Goddard, Bryan Chwilog, Talwrn, Llangefni, Ynys Mon LL77 7TD Tel 01248 723276 or check the website (www.peruviansecrets.co.uk).
Ann Wood (Secretary)
WEATHER AND WILDLIFE
August to December 2000
Weatherise, the autumn of 2000 will live long in the memory with October and November combining to give over 20 inches (500+ mm) of rain in an exceptionally unsettled, sunless period. They were certainly the two wettest months since our records began at Treborth in 1988 and probably the wettest in most peoples memory.
One of the most dramatic effects of the high rainfall has been the loosening of tree roots. Over-lubricated clay-rich soils simply cannot provide firm anchorage for surface rooting species, such as Betula (Birch), and consequently a significant number have toppled over even though winds have not been exceptionally strong.
Less obvious but no less significant will have been the death of rootlets and soil fauna through waterlogging and the resultant anaerobic conditions.
Autumn was in the air for some plants as early as mid-August, most notably Liquidambar styraciflua, the American Sweet Gum. For a period of 15 weeks the 30 year old specimen has enhanced the pond area with a rich variety of autumn colour, finally giving up its claret cloak of leaves on the last day of November.
September was wonderful for fungi, especially Death Caps (Amanita phalloides), but excessive rain thereafter spoilt the show. However it didn’t prevent a brilliant golden display of foliage from Sorbus americana and Betula grossa in mid-October.
Butterflies, especially Red Admiral and Peacock, were numerous in August and September with reasonable numbers of Painted Lady and Comma. The mass flowering of Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) in mid-August was a big draw. Common Blues produced a good second brood and Holly Blue a few. Fine days in August and September saw Clouded Yellows on the wing and exceptionally a pale coloured female of the helice form on 25th August. Purple Hairstreaks were scarce, a few appearing in the first half of August.
Moth wise the major event was an identification workshop on 5th/6th August during which enthusiasts ran a total of nine traps which caught several hundred moths, including 66 species of macromoth and 33 micromoths. Later on in September (23/24th), on National Moth Night, balmy conditions (21oC at 20.00 hrs with a southerly breeze) produced 207 moths of 31 species including an uncommon migrant, the White-speck. Indeed this autumn turned out to be exceptional for this species, a total of 62 specimens being recorded between 8th September and 28th October. Other migrants of note included the Gem (30/31st Aug., 7/8th Sept.), the Vestal (30/31st Aug., 4/5th Sept.), and large numbers of Silver Y, Dark Sword Grass, Pearly Underwing and Turnip Moth.
After proving irresistible to the butterflies, the Knapweed provided hours of foraging contentment for a flock of Goldfinch over 60 strong feeding on the seed heads through September and October, only to be joined by a smaller flock of Siskin in November. Redwings did not appear until the last day of October, 3 weeks later than usual. Finally, as we head into the Christmas period, look out for Pheasants – they have appeared in the garden after an absence of several years.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
A PLANT NEW TO SCIENCE DISCOVERED ON ANGLESEY
Those of you familiar with Traeth Lligwy on the N.E coast of Anglesey will know it to be a wonderful place, with a beautiful beach, cliffs and dunes, and a wealth of plant and animal wildlife for the enthusiast. It is rightly popular and well-known, with many visitors each year. Some of these people come to see a very rare plant that was discovered by Dick Roberts in 1989. On the dunes between the two car-parks, Dick found a robust Equisetum, or Horsetail, that looked a bit odd to his well-trained eye. Further inspection showed it to be the hybrid between two common Equisetum species, E. palustre (Marsh Horsetail) and E. telmateia (Great Horsetail). Known as E. x font-queri this attractive hybrid forms a large colony at Lligwy, and this is its only known site in Wales. Indeed, it is a rare plant in Britain, being known from only five other sites in Scotland and England.
The Horsetails are an odd group of plants, and an attractive one, at least to me! The Equisetaceae are an extremely ancient family – fossil Horsetails are not uncommon in deposits laid down over 350 million years ago, particularly in the strata that now form the coal measures. They lack true leaves, all the green parts being stems or branches. Some species do not produce branches, but in those that do they are arranged in distinctive, regular whorls along the stems. They do not produce flowers, but fertile stems are topped with cone-like, spore-producing structures called stromatophores. In a few species, the cones are only produced on white, chlorophyll-less stems in early spring.
Nine species are known to grow in Britain. All prefer moist soil, and are typically found in habitats like marshes, ditches, riversides, lake shores, damp woodland and wet cliffs. Some have moved into more disturbed, man-made habitats, and the most common species, E. arvense (Common Horsetail) will be all too familiar with many gardeners as an almost indestructible weed of cultivated ground. The toughness of this species is due, in part, to the high levels of silica in its stems and branches, a feature shared amongst all Horsetails. Some species have such high quantities of silica that they have been used in the past as pot-cleaners, lending them the alternative common name of Scouring Rush.
Anyway, lets go back to Traeth Lligwy and the reason for this story. Ian Bonner and I found ourselves at Lligwy one beautiful sunny evening in July (yes, it was sunny and not raining constantly in those days!), looking to re-find some old records of various plants recorded from the limestone cliffs to the south of the beach. Neither of us has seen the Equisetum x font-queri, so we decided to pay it a visit. As we headed back towards the site, we decided to drop down onto the beach and look at the cliffs from below. As we did, we noticed a Horsetail here that looked distinctly odd. To me, it appeared to be intermediate between E. telmateia (the Great Horsetail, which is one of the parents of E. x font-queri) and E. arvense (the Common Horsetail). E. telmateia is a distinctive species, with very tall stems and milky-white internodes. These plants were smaller with pale green internodes, but looked too robust and thick-stemmed to be proper E. arvense.
We collected material and I hit the text books once I got home, microscope at hand. The reason for this immediate burst of activity was that the hybrid between E. arvense and E. telmateia was unknown, and had never been found with any certainty, although people had been searching for it for many years. We had to be certain of our identification, so a long period of examination, research and consultation with experts began.
Slowly it became clear that we were right, and we really did have the hybrid between E. arvense and E. telmateia, new to science. A formal publication was needed, not only to record the discovery and describe the plant fully, but bring it to the attention of other botanists so that they can search for it elsewhere. I firmly believe that it exists elsewhere in Britain, possibly quite often, but it is frequently overlooked as just an odd form of one or other of its parents.
A Latin name was needed, and Ian, Nigel and I decided that we’d like to name it after Dick Roberts, who has done so much for botany, both on Anglesey and beyond, and who has worked so hard to protect many of the best botanical sites on the island. A paper will therefore soon be published, describing and illustrating Equisetum x robertsii. I say illustrating, because the paper needed a picture of the plant, and I was absolutely delighted when Kay Rees-Davies asked if she could do a drawing of the plant when specimens were displayed at the Treborth open day. One of the wonderful pictures she produced graces the front of this edition of the Newsletter, and we are extremely grateful to her for such a generous offer.
So, a chance deviation in our route on an evening walk leads to a new plant being discovered. Its not often you get the chance to name a new plant, and the whole episode has been a bit of an adventure of discovery. Why E. x robertsii grows at Lligwy, and why E. x font-queri also grows there, we will probably never know; it may be due to the local form of E. telmateia being especially partial to hybridisation (but please do not mention the closeness of Wylfa B nuclear power station!). However, its enough for me just to marvel at the diversity of life around us, and enjoy the settings in which we find such wonderful plants.
Trevor Dines (Chairman)
DISCOVERING WELSH WILDLIFE
25th August 2000
Perhaps watching too many nature programmes has led to my complacency for the real thing but on the 25th August, I rediscovered British wildlife. There was a moth catching (mothing) session scheduled at Newborough forest at the Southwest end of Anglesey at about 8.30pm. People gathered at Treborth to be taken to the site by Nigel Brown.
The drive there was amazing, along the best road in Anglesey. There was a sunset on one side of the bus and the Snowdon mountain range in a gorgeous panoramic view on the other. It was breathtaking. Once we got to Newborough, we had a short tour of the forest. First we stopped to look at some newcomers to the island’s flora; these were Wintergreens (Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. maritima) which apparently smell of Germaline, in which they are used. In the past, the leaves were used in medicines as they have diuretic and disinfectant properties. There was also some Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) which didn’t smell very nice.
The next stop on the nature trail was at the edge of the forest where it meets the sand dunes. We climbed up a tall dune and once we reached the top, there was yet another beautiful view of the sunset with a rocky coastline. The gently curving beach with its waves breaking on the shore had Oyster Catchers running about in the surf, calling to one another. To the south, there was Llanddwyn peninsula with the old lighthouse at its tip.
Once we had had enough of the view (not really possible), we carried on, coming eventually to a small man-made wildlife pond. Nigel told us that last time he was here, it was really hot and he put his hands in the pond to wash them, only to leap back as about three massive medicinal leeches attached themselves to his hands! With this in mind, he proceeded to try the same trick again! This time, we were out of luck, and it was getting dark, so searching for them was difficult even with the torch. He suggested we all help by putting our hands in the pond as well, to “create more of a target”! Some stup… sorry, brave souls tried it. There was still no sign of them, but Sion (who teaches at Treborth School) found a newt and later someone else found a toad. Then Nigel tried going right into the middle of the pond where it was warmer (about 70 oF apparently). Suddenly, we heard a yelp of surprise and a bit of splashing about. He had found the leeches, and it was close to the entire leech population of the pond by what we could see! They seemed to have quite a fetish for his wellies and he soon had a family of them trying to feed on the rubber. With more splashing about, Nigel managed to catch one in a tube and he brought it up for us to see. It was light brown with suckers at either end. Along its body were orange lines and a line of orange spots; it was really pretty… for a leech that is.
We then drove to the moth site, stopping on the way to avoid some toads crossing the road. Further on a Tawny Owl flew right in front of us. We only saw these things because of the headlights, as by now it was very dark.
So we reached the mothing site and parked. Bats flitted above us as we walked towards the very bright lights that indicated the positions of the moth traps. Moths and other flying monstrosities were everywhere. We went to the first trap and looked at what had been caught. There were species like Hook-tip (Drepana species), Canary Shouldered Thorn (Ennomas alniaria), Drinker Moth (Euthrix potataria), Flame Shoulder and many others with fantastic names first coined by Victorian entomologists.
The mothing session ended at about midnight and everyone was ready for bed.
I hope this little account encourages you to do some exploring too (if, in fact, you need any encouragement) and I hope that the leeches haven’t put you off too much!
Katherine Vint (Student Representative)
MEMORIES OF THE MOUNTAINS
Yet another wet November day at Aberconwy Nursery finds me looking for another task that can be completed under cover. Standing water and the high water table make the garden a no-go area still, so today finds me repotting species lilies in the relative dry of one of the tunnels. We find that late October is the best time to repot lilies; before they go completely dormant for the winter; but everything is late this autumn and even some of the maples are still carrying their leaves. As the hailstones convert the tunnel into a drum, I inspect the pots of one of my favourite species, and let my imagination drift back to the sights and smells of the Dolomites in early July.
Lilium martagon is not uncommon in the European mountains. In fact, it has the widest natural range for any lily, stretching from Western Europe to the Lena River in Siberia, adapting to varying climates along the way. In Siberia, it has also been recorded at the most northerly point for a lily, so we can be confident that it is a hardy and adaptable beast. Often, it is found in dappled shade, as I have seen it in the Julian Alps in Slovenia. Above Bohinj, it can be seen up towards the tree line, emerging from low scrub, sometimes accompanied by the fluffy seedheads of Clematis alpina. The plants I have seen there have been tall and stately, but those I saw in the Dolomites this year were much shorter and chunky, often growing out in the open in the alpine meadows above the tree line, as well as in the dappled shade just below it. Sometimes it was in hollows, emerging from juniper and dwarf willow, but it was striking how often we saw it in splendid isolation on open grassy banks. The beautifully reflexed ‘turk’s cap’ flowers of rich dark maroon were in groups of up to 20 per stem and although they may not have the most glorious of scents amongst the lilies, what they lack in perfume, they make up for in elegance.
In the garden, Lilium martagon can be much bigger again, with up to 50 flowers per stem being recorded. Some plants in the garden here reach 6ft or more, opening their blooms gradually in the early summer from late May through until the end of July. It is easy to grow, beautiful and reliable, so it is hard to understand why it so rarely grown these days.
As a plant that has been in cultivation for so long, perhaps it is regarded as not being sufficiently exotic now. Certainly the bulbs resent drying out, and it is rarely seen on sale as dry bulbs with the hybrid lilies in garden centres in the winter. It is best acquired as a growing plant in the spring, or raised from the seed which is so generously set in the garden. Growing lilies from seed requires patience, but is very rewarding. Once the bulbs have matured, I usually plant them out amongst low, spring flowering shrubs, the dwarf rhododendrons perhaps, or Viburnum davidii, so that the stately blooms can follow on with colour into the summer. I’ve always chosen dappled shade in the garden before, but after seeing the short, sturdy plants out in the open in the Dolomites, I intend to try one or two out on the bank behind the house this year.
There is a lovely waxy, white form as well, Lilium martagon var. album, which is almost as vigorous as the type. It has an ethereal beauty, especially when seen in dappled shade, where the pale flowers can glisten as the stray rays of the sun catch them. The recent Alpine Garden Society expedition to Macedonia and Epiros (the MESE Expedition) led by John Richards, collected seed from an outstanding population with very large flowers of a uniform dark, shining claret colour. This collection was made on Mt. Vermion, and has been christened Lilium martagon ‘Naoussa Boutari’, in honour of the local wine! The seed has germinated, so we now have a four or five year wait to see whether or not the offspring have the same outstanding flower!
Rachel Lever, Aberconwy Nursery