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.