On Saturday I went on another of the National Trust work experience days. This was the first session where I wasn’t freezing cold or soaking wet (or both!) – the sun was shining, the sky was a glorious blue and according to my phone the temperature even reached 18 degrees at one point! It is so lovely to think that spring is finally here.
The purpose of this session was for us to expand our knowledge on wildflowers and their identification.
In the morning we had an ‘informal lecture’ sort of thing to bring us up to speed on wildflowers (I didn’t really have much of a clue beforehand!) After a brief re-cap on the anatomy of plants, we moved onto looking at key features which can be used to distinguish between plant families. These include the position of leaves on the stem, the type of leaf and the arrangement of the flower heads.
In the session I made very quick, rough notes but for the purposes of this blog I copied them up in neat – the results of which can be seen below…
The different features shown vary depending on the family that a plant belongs to – we learnt the specifics of ten different families (although there are many more than this, we didn’t have time to look at them all so instead focused on the ones we would be most likely to see at Quarry Bank in March). The table below summarises the families we examined.
|Buttercup family / Ranunculaceae||5 petals, 5 sepals
Lots of stamens and carpels
Deeply divided leaves
|Cabbage family / Brassicaceae||4 petals (in cross shape), 4 sepals
6 stamens (four long, two short)
|Pinks / Caryophyllaceae||4/5 petals, often deeply notched
|Pea Family / Fabaceae||Flower is zygomorphic
|Rose family / Rosaceae||5 petals, 5 sepals (united at base)
Alternate, compound leaves
|Carrot family / Apiaceae||Umbel flowers
|Daisy family / Asteraceae||Capitulum flowers|
|Figwort family / Scrophulariaceae||2 lipped corolla
|Mint family / dead-nettle family / Lamiaceae||Square stems
Whirls of flowers
2 lipped corolla
|St Johns-wort family / Clusiaceae||5 yellow petals
Entire, opposite leaves
Glossary of terms in table (also see diagram above):
- Carpel – the female reproductive part of a flower
- Corolla – the petals of the flower
- Node – area on the plant stem from which leaves and buds grow
- Sepals – usually found underneath petals, protect flower when it is in the bud (just to add to the confusion, sepals are often green in colour, but when sepals look like petals they are referred to as tepals!)
- Stamen – the male reproductive part of a flower, produces pollen
- Zygomorphic – a bilaterally symmetrical flower
Having learnt the theory, we were then given a chance to practice using dichotomous keys with some cut garden flowers. A dichotomous key is a series of questions providing the reader with two choices, which eventually lead to the name of the species.
After lunch we then headed out to the Southern Woods, where we began our wildflower survey. (This is an example of a Phase Two survey – see my blog post from the 25th of February for more information on Phase One habitat surveys).
Due to it still being fairly early in the year, there weren’t a huge amount of flowers to be found, however we did find some. Despite being armed with hand lenses and books, it was surprisingly difficult to identify the exact species and we spent a considerable amount of time examining the plant shown below… Now I have a confession to make – I can’t actually remember what we decided this was!
Some other plants that we discovered included the lesser celandine (pictured below)….
…and the wood anemone. This particular species is an example of an ancient woodland indicator, so comes in handy when conducting Phase One habitat surveys.
All in all, this was a lovely day out in the fresh air; it felt a little bit more relaxed than our previous sessions with the National Trust, although that may just have been an effect of the weather.
(I’m also just going to apologise for the irregularity of my blog posts recently – I should be back to posting normally again as of next weekend).