Urban flora fascinates me. One of the reasons is that the exceptional floristic diversity found in urban habitats challenges my ideas about wildlife and conservation. We tend to think of urban development as intrinsically adverse to biodiversity, however, re-colonisation can be quick and novel habitats can be rich and surprisingly biodiverse.
This positive aspect needs of course to be weighed up against irreversible loss of some habitats such as nutrient poor mires that can disappear and are never replaced.
But I also enjoy urban floras because so many unexpected plants turn up! and because it transforms my weekly trips to the supermarket into genuine botanical expeditions. Above and below are pictures of Filago vulgaris, the common cudweed, in a waste ground in (SK337889) Walkley, Sheffield, UK, near home. I had spotted the hundreds of tiny rosettes early this spring but couldn’t work out whether it would turn out to be a Filago or Gnaphalium uliginosum, the marsh cudweed.
We also had two special guests, Volker Grimm and Hanna Weise from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany, who presented fascinating background information about ecosystem resilience. Volker was a pioneer in trying to understand how the notion of resilience can be applied in ecology and his 1997 seminal paper is worthwhile a read.
The first day’s discussions were focussed on defining resilience, while in the second day we explored the multiple ways that can be used to measure ecosystem resilience.
It was very enlightening to hear different researchers from different BESS projects explain how ecosystem resilience was relevant to their work. The diversity of opinion was absolutely overwhelming! To such an extent that after two days of lively discussion it became very difficult to produce a short summary or a take-home message.
There was however two important points most attendees agreed upon:
Resilience is a useful notion for their work
It will be worth pursuing our quest to understand ecosystem resilience after the meeting – and we are already getting organise to do so.
When I saw the roads signs for West Malling last week I knew I had to make a small detour and look for the largest known population of Chaenorhinum origanifolium in Britain and Ireland. I first encountered this rare alien plant on a wall in Oxford – see my new-to records page. It did not take long to locate the West Malling population on Swan Street (TQ682577). There is a very large number of mature plants, that were in full bloom, and a large number of seedlings:
There is much written about the spread of Polypodon viridis in Britain and Ireland but its close relative Polypogon monspeliensis may also be spreading. I am posting here a few pictures of P. monspeliensis, observed as a casual in a car park during my recent family holiday in Sussex (plants located at TQ452172). Note the resemblance with P. viridis inflorescences – apart from the long awns!