BSBI South Donegal – Outing

South Donegal Field Meeting – East Donegal (H34)

A two day field-outing was held in the southern half of the East Donegal (H34) vice county over the 6th-7th of August. The aim of this field-outing was to collect records for Atlas 2020 and to also showcase some of the botanical rarities of H34. The weather was mixed over the weekend, with warm temperatures on the Saturday to a very windy morning on the Sunday. In fact the weather deteriorated so quickly on Sunday that we ended up cancelling the second part of the day.

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Murvagh, Co. Donegal

On Saturday the 6th a group of 11 recorders set out to the botanical hotspot of Murvagh (GRID REF). We had not left the car park more than five minutes before coming across the first rarity of the day Pyrola rotundifolia ssp. maritima (Round-leaved Wintergreen) a sub-species which is only found in two locations in the country, Murvagh in Co. Donegal and the Raven in Co. Wexford.

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Pyrola rotundifolia ssp. maritima (Round-leave Wintergreen)

The first hollow to be investigated turned up other interesting plants, Parnassia palustris (Grass-of-Parnassus) was a common sight, while Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine) and Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine) were also quite frequent.

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Parnassia palustris (Grass-of-Parnassus)
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Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine)
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Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine)

We travelled along the path passing swathes of Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell), Galium verum (Lady’s Bedstraw), Linum catharticum (Fairy Flax) and of course Euphrasia (Eyebright sp.).

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Noticed these quite cute little 6-spot Burnet Moths sharing a Harebell between them

In fact Mairéad and myself managed to take some samples of the Euphrasias found at Murvagh for keying out and confirmation at workshop with BSBI Eyebright referee Chris Metherell later in the year.

The next area we reach had equally nice species, at this stage Parnassia palustris and Epipactis helleborine were no longer captivating the crowds, however it wasn’t long till we came across Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s Tongue) a prostrate form of Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Horsetail) and Monotropa hypopitys (Yellow Bird’s-Nest).

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Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s Tongue)
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Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Horsetail)
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Monotropa hypopitys (Yellow Bird’s-Nest)

Myself and Mairéad had come across the Ophioglossum at the site before, but it was our first time seeing the Monotropa and I think a first time for many in attendance. After these major finds were awed at, we set about filling out the rest of the card.

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Botanists taking a closer look at a plant

Next on our recording itinerary was Turloughs even further South in the country near Ballyshannon. We came across a host of wetland species such as Veronica anagallis-aquatica (Blue Water-Speedwell), Triglochin palustre (Marsh Arrowgrass) and Comarum palustre (Marsh cinquefoil) but our next Turlough visit was halted by cattle. Diverted but not deterred we decided to record along an old laneway which led to an abandoned house. We found a number of interesting plants at this location, including two Alchemillas (Lady’s Mantle), Alchemilla xanthochlora and Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. vestita. We also recorded Anacamptis pyramidalis (Pyradmidal Orchid) Polygonum arenastrum (Equal-Leaved Knotgrass) and Epipactis helleborine (Broad-Leaved Helleborine) which only reinforced the point further in my head that you do not need to be somewhere that looks interesting to find things of interest.

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Botanists getting ready for another day of recording.

On Sunday the 7th we headed for one of Donegal’s best known beaches, Rossnowlagh. Rossnowlagh is also well known for its strong winds, and while this was good for the many kite surfers in attendance it kicked up quite a bit of a sandstorm for wide eyed botanists. As with many of the BSBI trips that I’ve been on the rather uninspiring carpark turned out to be of some interest and a nice amount of time was spent scouring its perimeter. This proved to be very useful as within two minutes of recording we came across Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-Bill), Saponaria officinalis (Soapwort) and the minute Sherardia arvensis (Field Madder) Once the car park had be suitably recorded we headed along the beach to our intended grassland site.

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Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-Bill)
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Sherardia  arvensis (Field Madder)

The grassland site we recorded within was relatively small, it had hordes of Lotus pedunculatus (Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil), with even a small number of very hardy Bumblebees out feeding and Potentilla anserina (Silverweed). The strong winds created an ever changing picture of green and silver between the two plant species.

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Beautiful scenes at a rough and windy Rossnowlagh

We finished up our recording for the day in a wet grassland sites and were able to add a few new species to our list, the most interesting being Baldellia ranunculoides (Lesser Water-Plantain), Potamogeton polygonifolius (Bog Pondweed) and Samolus valerandi (Brookweed).

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Botanists showing the interesting species which can be found in a car park!

Unfortunately that was the last site that we managed to visit on the Sunday, due to an oncoming deluge. However over the one and a half days, we managed to gather a total of 432 records for Atlas 2020.