In the attempt to produce a good blog and then eventually a book about our woodlands and their wild flowers I initially identified about 175 wildflowers which I wanted to include. This would then involve me in getting photos of the plant and then writing about it. I have been working on this for about two years and now it is nearing completion. This year I would like to locate the final twenty or so plants and take their photos and also maybe improve on some of the photos I already have.
The first flower I need to find this year is one called Alternate Leaved Saxifrage. It is very similar to Opposite leaved Saxifrage. The names tell you the main difference between them.
This is Opposite leaved Saxifrage, very common.
So, how do I go about finding a plant? There are three lines of attack. The BSBI is the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. They have maps and you can visit their web site and type in the name of a particular plant and then zoom in on the map and see down to the level of a one kilometer square where the plants are. However one kilometer is quite a big area especially if you are looking for a plant that is only 10 cm high.
This is the BSBI distribution map for the Alternate leaved Saxifrage.
Second is to use local books which give locations. I have two, one for Gloucestershire and one for Monmouthshire, they are well out of date but they do help. There is a more modern Flora for Monmouthshire by Evans but it is out of print and second hand versions are quite expensive.
Thirdly there are the Naturalist Trusts and they have records of what they have seen and they are up to date, however they do tend to reflect the location of their members more than the distribution of the plants, so for example there are lots of records in the Cotswold region of Gloucestershire and relatively few for the Forest of Dean and Wye valley.
In my hunt for the Alternate leaved Saxifrage I visited Barbadoes wood in Monmouthshire, it is just across from Tintern and I have also had a look round Brockweir also on the Wye valley.
On my Brockweir search I went along the Offas Dyke path which crosses two brooks that run down either side of the road down into Brockweir. I came across lots of Opposite leaved saxifrage but no Alternate leaved. This was also what I found on my earlier visit to Barbadoes wood. However all was not lost as I did come across some other interesting plants, there was lots of Lesser Celandine and Dog’s Mercury in flower, some Primroses and Greater Periwinkle, in a few weeks time there will be loads of Bluebells and Ramsons. There were also some large patches of Pennywort or Navelwort growing out of some of the walls and banks, not in flower at this time of year.
I then went down into Brockweir and investigated a path that leads out of the village and follows along the course of the Wye towards Tintern, again lots of Opposite leaved Saxifrage, but not the one I was looking for. There were again other interesting plants, most notably Toothwort which parasitises Hazel,
So no luck yet, I may have one more attempt next week but then I will simply investigate any saxifrage plants I come across to check out the arrangement of their leaves but dedicated sorties to locate this fairly small and insignificant plant will be curtailed. Not having a photo of it will not severely reduce the quality of my book.