Last week I was very lucky to spend a day with the BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland) during their Mayo recording event. The botanists had spent 4 days in County Mayo, recording plants on Clare Island, Inishturk as well as on the mainland.

This is the second BSBI recording event I have attended and I am always impressed, not only by the knowledge of the botanists doing the recording, but also by their enthusiasm to pass on their knowledge to amateur botanists like myself. In Ireland, we have about 980 native vascular plants and a further 1300+ non-natives.  The last time the recording event was held in Mayo back in 2015, a whopping 10,824 plant records were collected. All this information will go to feed into the BSBI Plant Atlas 2020.

On the day I attended, the group was broken up into a number of smaller groups of about 4 individuals, each with a specific area to survey. Each group had a mix of botany skills, from experts to beginners. Our group started recording in some flora rich grasslands along the shores of Lough Carra.

Flora rich grassland

Flora rich grassland

Botanising often requires that you get up close and personnel to your subject matter,  particularly if it is something rare that you don’t want to pick.

Up close

Rory using hand lens to identify plant features

In this case (see above photo), it was determining if the plant was Spring Gentian. In flower the plant is easily identified by it’s beautiful blue flower,  but when you only have a dried flower stalk and some leaves you need to use something like Webbs An Irish Flora plant key to make sure you have your identification correct.

Spring gentian

Other habitats we looked at during the day included road verges, hedgerow banks, bogs (including a dried-up bog pool, unusual but perhaps not surprising after our dry June and July), and turlough (though again totally dry).


If you see a group of people with their heads stuck in a hedge they are likely to be some kind of scientist!


It really was a great day out.  Our group recorded about 220 species, everything from common dandelions to rare spring gentians. I learnt so much from Maria, Rory and Mark, my colleagues for the day. A huge thank you to all involved but particular Maria Long, BSBI’s Irish Officer.

Lough Carra

Lough Carra


5 thoughts on “Botanising

  1. Pingback: 18 goals for 2018 | Murtagh's Meadow

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