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Botany in the North East

The North East of England contains, in upper Teesdale, one of Britain’s hotspots for plants, and also a number of other notable botanical habitats – these include the Whin Sill, coastal dunes, upland hay meadows, the Durham Magnesian Limestone, calaminarian (heavy-metal contaminated) grassland and wet peat bogs.

Floras (books which itemise our plants) are, for Northumberland Flora of Northumberland by Professor George Swan (published by the Society in 1993), and for County Durham The flora and vegetation of County Durham by the Reverend Gordon Graham (published in 1988 by the Durham Flora Committee and the Durham County Conservation Trust). Both are available to purchase from the Society and can also be consulted in the Society’s Library. Additionally there is a completely up-to-date, on-line, freely available Flora of North East England (just type those words into a search engine), with species distribution maps and much else.

The Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) appoints recorders for each vice-county (corresponding either to historic counties, or parts of larger ones) and the recorders are anxious to receive records of interesting species:

County Durham (v-c 66) John Durkin: durkinjl@aol.com

South Northumberland (v-c 67) Professor John Richards: hightreesgarden@btinternet.com

North Northumberland (v-c 68) Chris Metherell: chris@metherell.org.uk

For each vice-county the BSBI publishes Rare Plant Registers (RPRs), mini-floras with details of just the rarest species and how they are faring. RPRs can be downloaded for each of our vice-counties, and for neighbouring Berwickshire at http://bsbi.org/rare-plant-registers

Also, for details about most of County Durham’s top botanical sites, including check-lists please follow this link: http://www.bsbi.org.uk/co__durham.html

Current recording projects are (i) a Common Plant Survey for the Flora of North East England for v-cs 66 and 67 based on a sample of monads (1 × 1 km squares), and (ii) for an ambitious web-based Flora of v-c 68 (North Northumberland) based on tetrads (4 × 4 km squares).

For bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) John O’Reilly is the British Bryological Society recorder for the whole of Northumberland and for County Durham, and Dr Janet Simkin, of the British Lichen Society, receives records for lichens.

For Society members with an interest in our flora, the Botany Section arranges a programme of winter lectures and summer field trips, both at weekends and on Wednesdays. Some of the Wednesday trips are monad or tetrad recording sessions.

Notable plants
Among less common, or rare, plants, which botanists from other areas would be pleased to find, are spring gentian (in upper Teesdale), the Lindisfarne Helleborine (on Holy Island dunes, alone in the whole world), Dark-red Helleborine (Magnesian Limestone), Spring Sandwort (calaminarian grassland), Bloody Cranesbill (dunes), Maiden Pink (on the Whin Sill and elsewhere) and Coralroot Orchid (on Holy Island and at the Society’s Gosforth Park Nature Reserve).