Monday, 18 May 2015

Fascination of Plants Day 2015

CEH scientists were among those taking part in an event at Harcourt Arboretum in Oxfordshire this weekend staged as part of the worldwide Fascination of Plants Day 2015. Insect interactions with different plants and wildflowers were high on the agenda as our experts led guided walks, answered questions and revealed the contents of a moth trap set up for the event.

Moth and butterfly ecologist Dr Marc Botham began proceedings when he opened the moth trap to fascinated onlookers.

Dr Marc Botham (kneeling) opened a moth trap at the event

Although Marc himself was a little disappointed with the number and variety of species caught during a cooler than average May night, there were still plenty to keep the crowd interested, with poplar hawk moths particularly numerous. 

Many of the people got to hold some of the still docile moths for the first time and see up close the amazing colours and markings.

Next up was the first of the day's ladybirds walks, led by entomologist Dr Helen Roy, who taught some of the younger participants the art of using a sweep net and showed them how to input their discoveries into the Ladybird Survey app.

A number of pine ladybirds were found on both pine and hawthorn trees in the woodland. On a day when ladybirds were actually quite scarce, 14-spot and 7-spot ladybirds were also spotted by some of the more eagle-eyed participants.

Dr Oli Pescott, a botanist at CEH, led plant and wildflower walks during the day. As well as pointing out much of what was in bloom around the arboretum, Oli revealed fascinating facts, identification tips, similarities between species and the importance of different plants for insect interactions.

The cuckooflower or Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis), a primary
larval food plant of the Orange tip butterfly

Comparing characteristics of thyme-leaved speedwell (left) and
germander speedwell.

Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) - don't eat it! A
woodland plant which is highly poisonous.

This is the third international Fascination of Plants Day. Events are being held worldwide with the aim of getting people enthused by plants and their importance for the environment, food production, agriculture, as well as the sustainable production of goods such as timber, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc.

As well as CEH, other organisations taking part at the Harcourt Arboretum event included the University of Oxford, the Wildlife Trusts, the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, and the RSPB.

Paulette Burns

Further information

Marc, Oli and Helen all work closely with the Biological Records Centre within CEH.

Fascination of Plants Day 2015 official website

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