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 2018 – 23 March 2018
I did the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes this afternoon. The total count was 604 which is roughly on a level with the past 2 years, though well below the bumper years of 2013-15. As in previous years the vast majority – 538 (95%) – were in the area of grassland immediately north of the main seat with a continuing diminishing number on the river bank and other areas.
The following chart shows the counts since 1999. The increase in Butterbur numbers from 2009 coincides with its spread to the area below the seat.
ORCHID COUNTS ON BROOK MEADOW – 2017
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?