News & Events

Uist Botany Group identifying Forget-me-not

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? When jokes about mine were based on vegetation rather than margarine I knew I’d found firm friends. My name is Flora and I’m a botanist. I couldn’t tell you if nominative determinism is a genuine phenomenon but I’ve been fascinated with flowers all my life and even spent a year studying how plants themselves are given names. When I moved to Uist in 2012 I was raring to get out in the field and start work improving my very rudimentary ID skills. Progress was slow! It wasn’t until summer 2013 when I stumbled upon Paul Smith and a team of botanical recorders from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) in South Uist that I realised it’s much easier to learn alongside other people and they introduced me to Uist residents who were interested in doing the same. The BSBI encouraged the formation of a local plant recording group so I set up a mailing list, asked Paul (who collects, collates and verifies all plant records for the Outer Hebrides as the BSBI vice county recorder) for a list of locations with few recent records and invited everyone to come out and see what we could find.

This became the ‘Uist Botany Group’ and over the course of two summers we collected over 1000 vascular plant records and learned to identify lots of species in good company and great scenery. At a national level, the records will be used to produce an Atlas of the British and Irish flora due to be published in 2020. It’s also vital to have the information available locally so all of the records are held by Outer Hebrides Biological Recording (OHBR) too. For the past few years OHBR have run excellent field meetings to teach new ID skills and facilitate recording of all taxa found in the Outer Hebrides, again concentrating on groups and / or locations for which little information already exists. It soon became clear that people who came along to learn about plants with the botany group had a wealth of knowledge about other organisms. Not only was this exchange of information endlessly interesting, it made species ID so much more relevant (because that plant with that character is the food plant for that caterpillar with those markings etc) which sped up the learning process and generated holistic datasets of biological records that are far more useful for understanding our environment. It also meant the only real difference between a Uist Botany group and an OHBR field meeting was... the name! So from 2016 onwards plant recording will be incorporated as part of the OHBR field meetings schedule and we look forward to you coming along and taking part!
Flora Donald

OHBR will be out and about as soon as the weather improves. We will be recording plants as well as animals and fungi, so if you're interested in learning more about our native wild flowers why not join us. If you have any botanical records please send then to OHBR, we will add them to our local database and forward them to the BSBI via Paul Smith.