The first Flora to cover the whole of Cornwall was published in 1909 by Frederick Hamilton Davey. This incredible volume owed a great deal to Allan Octavian Hume, the founder of the South London Botanical Institute, who not only encouraged and mentored Davey but financed the publication. Many of Davey’s plant specimens are preserved within the SLBI herbarium.
Colin will discuss the latest Flora of Cornwall incarnation which has just been published. This project began in 2007 at the spring meeting of the Botanical Cornwall Group when it was decided to systematically survey every one kilometre square (3940 squares), visiting as many habitats as possible in each of the seasons. The bulk of this survey was undertaken by a small number of very dedicated volunteers, who gathered together and computerised over a million fresh flowering plant and fern records.
In the course of this survey many exciting discoveries were made including a few plants which were new to science. There were also some newly discovered native species (new to Britain in a couple of cases), whilst the majority of the newcomers were alien plants/garden escapes. In total 426 plants were added to the Cornish tally which now stands at 3018. In addition nine plants, thought to be extinct, were re-discovered.
Whilst these discoveries provide the icing, the main body of the cake relates to a native flora that numerically is now in the minority and has been inexorably declining for decades both in the amount of wildlife habitat available and overall biodiversity. Indeed, by analysing the recent data and comparing it with historic records, at least half of Cornish natives and archaeophytes (ancient introductions) were more widespread before 2000 and a minimum of 40% of Cornwall has lost 90% of its flora in the last 50 years. So clearly, Cornwall has not been immune from the immense changes that have been badly degrading the biodiversity of the rest of lowland Britain.
The audience will be guided on a virtual botanical tour of Cornwall viewing extracts of the book aided by an exploration of the underlying ERICA database which will provide a multi-media insight. This will highlight some of the more interesting finds, general observations and lessons learned. There should also be scope to demonstrate some of the technological changes and more sophisticated analytical techniques which were developed for the book.
With 2.27 million computerised vascular plant records dating back to the sixteenth century, Cornwall can justifiably claim to be the most comprehensively and intensively surveyed region in Britain. The new Flora of Cornwall book is just one product of those data, which can be used in a multitude of different ways to help understand and monitor environmental change. Collectively this immense resource has the potential to provide the evidence needed for much needed landscape-wide improvements in land management which are much more sympathetic to wildlife.
Tickets: Donation only please
NB The Zoom link will be sent out by us on the morning of the talk
The SLBI is a registered charity for botanical education. It supports people of all ages and backgrounds in learning about plants. By making a donation with your booking you will help to sustain our work with school children, families and the wider community. As a small charity, any amount you can give, large or small, will be warmly appreciated and make an enormous difference.
A page from the book