Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Winter Warm-up to Spring!

Looking to improve your ecology or botany skills this autumn? Want a flexible online course with mentor help? Why not grab a mug of steaming cocoa, put your feet up and warm your tootsies by the fire whilst studying one of our ecological and botanical courses?

To learn more about our courses got to

Friday, 28 September 2018


Ever been needled by stitch, that sharp pain in the side whilst exercising? Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, was used as a herbal remedy to treat this affliction.

The deeply notched petals make it appear to have 10 petals although there are only 5. The genus name Stellaria is derived from 'stellar' meaning star-like referring to the flower shape. The species name holostea is derived from a Greek word 'holosteon' meaning entire bone. Apparently, this refers to the brittleness of the weak stems.

Old Man's Beard

Traveller's Joy, Clematis vitalba, is from the Buttercup family and also known as Old Man's Beard due to the feathery fruits. Good for pollinators, but folklore suggests it does the work of the devil by choking other vegetation in the hedgerows!

This is the only UK native clematis and a vigorous climber. Once it has finished flowering, the feathery heads aid seed dispersal.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Carline Thistle Great Orme

Carline Thistle (Carlina Vulgaris)

This thistle from the Asteraceae family grows on dry well grazed calcareous soils.  The photograph below was taken on the Great Orme, Llandudno on 27th July. Limestone dominates in this location (and also dolomite) and the grassland is well grazed by sheep and Kashmir goats. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Botany for Beginners

Want to improve your botanical Identification skills? Are you a conservation professional or volunteer or a hobby botanist? Want to learn at your own pace with guidance and support on hand?

Enrol on our online, flexible modular training course with mentor support. Gain skills to help towards gaining a FISC level or to prove your commitment for ecological memberships and also gain certificates of participation and achievement towards your CPD.

To learn more, go to: 


call 07743 712020 

Common Cow Wheat (Melampyrum pratense)

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Garden Lady's Mantle

Alchemilla mollis

The scientific genus name Alchemilla is derived from the word alchemy and refers to the belief that drops of dew from the leaves could turn base metal into gold.

The species name Mollis means soft or smooth.

Friday, 18 May 2018


An example of fasciation in a Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) where a disruption in the growth of cells has caused abnormal growth. Note the flattened, fused stem and heads.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Improve your botanical ID skills

Learn about plant science and ecology


Open for enrolments

Online flexible training with mentor support

Modular format means you can enrol on one or all four modules of your choice

suitable for hobby botanists, conservation volunteers and professionals

To learn more go to


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Online Botany and Ecology Course
Botany and its role in the ecosystem

The course is open for enrolments.  Apologies to anyone who experienced difficulties with enrolling, this has now been resolved. 

The course is flexible and modular with mentor support and covers:

  • Plant science
  • Botanical identification
  • Taxonomy
  • Habitats 
For more information, check out the Training page at 
or contact Lorna or Richard on 07743712020 or email

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Harbinger of Spring #2 Cuckooflower

The County flower of Cheshire, common names for Cardamine pratensis include Cuckooflower, Lady's Smock and Milk Maids. The species name 'pratensis' refers to the meadow habitat in which it grows.

 Harbinger of Spring

 Celandine (Ficaria verna) - the name is derived from the ancient Greek word for the bird 'swallow' which pertains to the time of year that it grows (growing when swallows arrive in early spring). The species name 'verna' relates to Spring (vernal).

Symbiosis: plants & insects

Plants are vital as shelter, perches and food for insects and, in return, the insects provide a service to the plants by helping to disperse seed and pollen. 

This symbiotic relationship is a vital link in the food chain.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Updated: Broad leaved Everlasting Pea

The Mosses with the Mostest

Not Bog Standard....

Peat bogs take hundreds or even thousands of years to form being made up of vegetation typical of acid bog environments, such as Sphagnum mosses, that have not fully decayed due to the acidic conditions (some bogs are entirely rain-fed so nutrient and oxygen poor, rather than gaining nutrients from ground water sources).

Sphagnum moss bogs as carbon stores and methane recyclers are vital to our atmosphere; they help to clean water running through the mosses and also help to prevent flooding in lowland areas. 

This habitat is vulnerable to human interference and can either dry out (through water diversion or tree planting) or become enriched which changes the plant species and subsequently the invertebrates that live there.  This is why the conservation of acid bog habitats is so important.

Leaf Morphology

Shape Shifters

Extract from our online course Botany and its role in the ecosystem
Some plants exhibit morphological traits related to the environmental conditions in which they live. 

The most important physical factor which has the most impact on leaf shape is light.  Leaves that trail along the ground surface or are shaded by other vegetation get less light and tend to be larger. 

Using an Ivy leaf as an example
Ivy (Hedera helix) exhibits morphological traits dependent on its growth stage. The mature leaves of Ivy exhibit the flowers and fruits whereas the broader, lobed leaves are the immature leaves. The immature leaves tend to trail on the ground in the shade whilst the mature leaves climb to the light. The difference in shape and diameter between immature and mature leaf is thought to be in response to the need to photosynthesise, with the larger size of the immature leaf providing a greater surface area to gain maximum energy from sunlight.  The morphological difference may also be connected to the way that the immature plant takes up and transports nutrients via xylem and phloem (i.e. the need to develop shoots and grow quickly in order to reach light). In regards to evaporation, the larger immature leaf will not transpire as much as the mature leaf so can be bigger without risk of losing water. 


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Getting Closer: Using a hand lens

Eye Spy....

Sometimes the only way to identify a plant is by looking to see how rounded or angled (square) the stem is; whether it is smooth or furrowed and whether hairs are present or absent.  To narrow down identification even further you may also need to determine the shape and type of hairs that are present.   


To identify some plants a microscope is needed, but for the most part a 10x magnification hand lens is sufficient for identifying most species out in the field. However, for closer inspection, you may want to use a 20x or 30x magnification hand lens.

To use a hand lens correctly, hold it to your eye and bring the plant up to the hand lens.  Allow time to focus – you may need to draw the plant closer towards the hand lens or further back to get it into focus.