ANNUAL COUNTS OF PLANTS
Annual counts of some of the more interesting plants are done on Brook Meadow.
A count of the number of Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow has been done each year from 1999, usually in late March before they get buried beneath the surrounding vegetation. Here is a typical flower spike. All the Brook Meadow plants are male. The nearest female plants are on the Langbrook Stream at Langstone. They propagate by underground rhizomes.
Butterbur count for 2017
As the Butterbur flower spikes were showing so well in the area below the seat, and with the surrounding vegetation growing fast, I decided to carry out the annual count. The flower spurs are in their prime and looking splendid.
This was a bit earlier than I usually do the count, but I felt I could not leave it any longer. As usual, to facilitate counting, I divided the area on the meadow below the seat into 12 sections using dead stems to mark out each section.
The total number of spikes counted in the area of the meadow in front of the seat came to 561 which is slightly up on the 530 counted in 2016, but well below the totals of the 3 previous years; 728, 630 and 780.
Much as in the previous 3 years, there were very few flower spikes in the other Butterbur areas; only 20 on the river bank, 12 on the south meadow and 16 at the east end of the causeway. The grand total came to 609, which was similar to last year’s 589, but well below the previous 3 years of 792, 824 and 1,150 which was the record count in 2013.
However, looking further back as shown in the chart, Butterbur numbers remain high compared with those in the early years of 1999 to 2010.
Overall, the pattern has not changed from last year with over 90% of the Butterbur spikes now to be found on the area of the meadow in front of the seat. The rise in Butterbur in this area and the fall in the other areas has taken place mainly since 2010 when only 50% of the plants were in the area below the seat. As to why this migration has taken place, my guess it must have something to do with the increasingly overgrown habitat on the river bank and in the south meadow where Butterbur used to flourish and the open area where they now grow so well.
This shows the main Butterbur area looking north from the seat
ORCHID COUNTS ON BROOK MEADOW
Southern Marsh Orchids
The first two Southern Marsh Orchids were planted on Brook Meadow on June 17, 2007. They were donated by orchid expert Nigel Johnson who had grown them in pots from originals collected from the colony on South Moor at Langstone. Nigel said the plants would seed themselves and would multiply over time and he was right! Here are the first two that were planted.
As shown in the following chart, Southern Marsh Orchids have steadily increased in numbers from the 2 that were originally planted in 2007 to a record 31 in 2017. However, this total is modest in comparison with other local sites, such as, Southmoor, Langstone which has up to 10,000 and Fishbourne Meadows which boasts around 500.
Common Spotted Orchids
Common Spotted Orchids were first seen on Brook Meadow in 2007 but showed very little change in numbers until 2017 following the planting of 10 new plants the previous year.
Bee Orchids were up on last year, but well down in the record of 29 in 2015. The problem is finding these orchids which are smaller and less striking than the other two and tend to flower later when they are buried beneath a mass of grasses. So, the counts are highly likely to be below the actual number of plants flowering on the meadow.
Bee Orchids vary a lot from one year to the next. This is party due the growth of surrounding vegetation which makes them extremely difficult to find.
This chart shows the counts of Bee Orchids on Brook Meadow since 2007.
RAGGED ROBIN COUNTS
The number of flowering Ragged Robin plants is counted each year in late May to early June. These plants grow mainly on the Lumley area.
The chart below shows the maximum counts each year from 2002. The counts have been variable over the years. Following a record 625 in 2010 the count fell to 214 in 2011 and then plummeted in Years 2012 and 2013. The count in 2014 was up to 104, but it fell again to just 34 flowering plants in 2015. Numbers increased again in 2016 to 154 which was the best count since 2011. They were down a little in 2017, but are staying high.
I have no idea why numbers of this delightful plant vary so much from one year to the next. There is no obvious change in the habitat or the management of the area. Maybe, it is weather related, who knows?