Middlesex Meeting July 7th 2007

Artemisia verlotiorum Artemisia verlotiorum (Chinese Mugwort)

Rubus tricolor fruit Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble: fruit)

Arctium lappa Arctium lappa (Greater Burdock)

Symphoricarpus x chenaultii Symphoricarpus x chenaultii (Hybrid Snowberry)

Rubus tricolor flower Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble: Flower)

Robinia pseudoacacia fruit Robinia pseudoacacia (False Acacia)

Ham River Lands: The Island at Teddington

June having broken records for wetness we were clearly due to have a scorching July with azure blue skies, hosepipe bans and soaring temperatures. Unfortunately July started by trying to break June’s sogginess record so for this meeting to start with warm sunshine and white clouds scuttling across the sky in a light wind was a blessed relief to our leader Pippa Hyde ably assisted by Paul Harmes. The meeting started at Teddington Lock where a footbridge overlooks the weir and the last part of tidal River Thames. London was busy with the usual influx of summer tourists and the first ever start of the Tour de France but here walkers, cyclists, runners, fishermen and botanists took advantage of a break in the weather at this most delighful part of London.

As is often the case with WFS meetings, one by one we dawdled to the appointed meeting place somewhere near the appointed time. After waiting for 20 minutes the group decided it was time to move knowing that unlike serious country walkers we would probably be no more than 100 metres from our start even after an hour as we puzzled over the identity of many local plants.

Our leaders decided to use a recorder’s list specially doctored for this area. As a way of finding out how many species of plant we have seen by the end of the meeting this is an excellent method of recording the species without duplication. Unlike the addicted square bashers however, we would eschew the calling of shortened Latin names every time we recognised a plant. There’s nothing quite so shouty and tick-listy as an enthusiastic pack of BSBI recorders in full howl but members of the public can be genuinely confused by such activity. Sometimes they pluck up courage to ask (what the devil) is going on, to offer help or occasionally even analgesics. One day I expect to read that people in white coats arrived and all those valuable lists were used as evidence of sectionable behaviour. Today we would conduct ourselves with the quiet dignity befitting the venerable status of our ancient Society and its ancient membership.

Crossing the footbridge to the island in the Thames we found Artemisia verlotiorum (Chinese Mugwort) in full flower with Hirschfeldia incana (Hoary Mustard) and Brassica nigra (Black Mustard) trying to confuse us with their similar appearances. Fortunately both yellow crucifers had fruits and the seed in the beak of Hirschfeldia was obvious. Nearby in the shade of the trees was a shrub with delicious looking orange berries and one or two white flowers. This was another introduced plant common in this part of the country: Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble). Also under the deep shade of the trees was a very sad looking sprawl of a shrub with a few unimpressive white flowers. The leaves looked like Symphoricarpus but there were only a few smallish flowers. It turned out to be the hybrid Symphoricarpus x chenaultii. (S. orbiculatus x S. microphyllus). On the main river side of the island the sumptuous looking bean pods of Robinia pseudoacacia (False Acacia) dangled amongst its pinnate yellow-green leaves. Under this Robinia grew a humungus (big) burdock. Only a few of us were familiar with the variation possible between Arctium lappa (Greater Burdock) and Arctium minus (Lesser Burdock) plus the possible hybrids. Arctium lappa is usually large but Arctium minus can be very big too so size isn’t a useful differentiating feature. Investigation of the petioles (leaf stalk) and the length of the pedicels (flower stalk) revealed that this very large leaved plant looked exactly like Arctium lappa precisely because that’s what it was.