Six members met to explore the Fairhaven dunes (SD33.27.) with the aim of finding early flowering plants and to look critically at difficult to identify species. For this, despite its weight, Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles was invaluable. Unfortunately the dry spring had left the earliest flowers no more than dried chaff. Nevertheless most of the species that might be expected were found:
Arenaria leptoclados (Slender Sandwort)
Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear)
Myosotis ramosissima (Early Forget-me-not)
Phleum arenarium (Sand Cat’s-tail)
Senecio vulgaris ssp. denticulatus (A Groundsell)
Veronica arvensis (Wall Speedwell)
Vicia lathyroides (Spring Vetch)
Vulpia fasciculata (Dune Fescue).
Of the rarer species found on these dunes Coincya monensis ssp. monensis(Isle of Man Cabbage), Cynoglossum officinale (Hound’s- tongue) and Thalictrum minus (Lesser Meadow-rue) were thriving whilst Euphorbia portlandica (Portland Spurge) and E. paralias (Sea Spurge) were found. With the publication of the BSBI Handbook on Viola special attention was given toViola spp. On these dunes Viola tricolor x V. arvensis (V. x contempta) was identified. It is probably frequent in coastal areas of N. Lancashire but previously overlooked.
The group then visited fixed dunes further inland (SD337278). Here the differences between Cerastium arvense (Field Mouse-ear), C. tomentosum(Snow-in-summer) and the hybrid between them were demonstrated. Also seen was the white flowered Polygala vulgaris ssp. collina (Common Milkwort).
After lunch the dunes north of North Beach Car Park and south of Thursby Homes (SD310300/1) were explored. A few plants of Viola canina (Heath Dog-violet) were seen but the group was particularly keen to find the dune form of Viola tricolor (Wild Pansy) usually recorded as ssp. curtisii.
The BSBI Handbook casts doubt on its identity and suggests it is an ecotype of Viola tricolor. Only a few plants were spotted, all blue and white flowered. They were perennial with numerous prostrate branches often unbranched or with a few side branches from the base or middle of the stem. Rhizomes were not well developed. This description appears to confirm the Handbook’s doubts.
The trip ended with a brief look at the Local Nature Reserve (SD311304). Another colony of Polygalla vulgaris ssp. collina was confirmed. The single male bush of Salix x friesiana was located but it had many dead twigs and was not thriving. Most surprisingly large tussocks of a sedge in the main slack previously recorded as Carex nigra (Common Sedge) were Carex elata(Tufted-sedge), not previously recorded in the area.