Members Reports and Photos

SATURDAY 5 april  2014            

LEADER: richard mcmullen

Praeger centre,  national botanic gardens

An Introduction to the Identification of ‘Wild’ Flowering Plants     

Richard gave us a very thorough and systematic introduction to the identification of the parts of plants – an essential requirement for the use of dichotomous keys such as Webb’s Irish Flora. His talk was accompanied by the building-up of excellent sketches on a white board. He then distributed sample plants and took us as a group through the process of identifying some common plants using the Flora and then to do their own identifications with assistance if required.

Some of the attendees had brought in specimens for identification and during lunch hour Richard and his assistants sorted out the plants into family groups. We all then had an opportunity to gain further insights some of features of each family and the salient differences between members of the same family. For example, the Cruciferaceae (Brassicaceae) were represented by white and yellow flowers each with four petals forming a cruciform.  Among the plants from this family displayed were Wild Cabbage Brassica rapa, Wall Rocket Diplotaxis muralis, Thale Cress Arabidopsis thaliana, Hairy bitter-cress Cardamine hirsuta, Wavy bitter-cress Cardamine flexuosa and Shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris.

The participant’s had a variety of identification books including Zoë Devlin’s pictorial Guide to the wildflowers of Ireland.

Declan then took us for a short walk to look at some of the Botanic Garden ‘Weeds’. Arabidopsis thaliana was present in some quantity. This is a short cycle plant – it germinates, flowers and sets seed in a short period of the order of six weeks. This short cycle gives the impression that it is resistant to herbicides (and perhaps it is!). It also a short genome and is  an important plant used in genetic research. Cardamine flexuosa is another weed that is spread by garden centres.

Small Lamium amplexicaule plants were found at the edge of the pathway. This is a not very common weed of cultivation. It was noted that the plants were small and the flowers were tiny. Declan explained that the plant has two flowering forms. It is cleistogamous in circumstances where it is under pressure due to weather or other conditions i.e. it flowers do not open and are self fertilized by internal transfer of pollen.  This lead to questions about brambles which are generally apomictic – no fertilisation is involved in reproduction, so many brambles are (identical) clones.

In the flower beds under the willows along the Tolka River we observed plants of the Dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana resplendent with their deep blue spurs. The other Dog-violet Viola riviniana normally has a broader ‘cream’ spur but some Dublin specimens can be very difficult to classify.

Also under the trees was Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina a member of the Broomrape family and an introduction from south-west Europe. This plant is parasitic on the roots of trees such as poplar and willow.  Yellow corydalis Corydalis lutea was naturalised along the bottom of the walls.

This meeting was attended by Field Club Union members from Belfast, Fermanagh and Mourne.  


Click on the Pages below to see copies of Richard's sketches of plant anatomy:

    Page 1    Page 2    Page3     Page 4    Page 5    Page 6    Page 7

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