London Natural History Society The place for wildlife in London

London Natural History Society - The place for wildlife in London

Sections

The London Natural History Society comprises of a number active sections focussing on specific taxonomic groups or wildlife sites.

About half the Society's 1000 members include botany among their natural history interests.

Our Botany Section organises indoor meetings, talks by visiting botanists and plant identification or study sessions.

We don't have to go very far to find London's wealth of wild plants. There are field meetings to a variety of sites in and around the capital and sometimes further afield.

A constantly changing flora

London is a complex mosaic of land surfaces and uses. No part of the LNHS area has a truly ‘natural’ flora, and there are few traces of the ancient flora in the urbanised centre. Nevertheless the ever-changing urban flora of adventive species (plants that have come from elsewhere, either as a result of commerce or as escapes from gardens) continues to provide much of interest in the inner city.

Our study area embraces a wide variety of habitats and the very activity which has caused the demise of many of the native species found two hundred years ago is responsible for the occurrence and establishment of numerous non-natives. Rodney Burton's 1983 "Flora of the London Area" (published by the LNHS) listed just over two thousand species, but recent additions and taxonomic changes make the current total considerably more than this.

A major factor influencing the range of wild plants found in London is the ‘heat island’ effect: the city is appreciably warmer than the surrounding countryside, having more frost-free days, more days above the minimum temperature for plant growth and higher Summer maxima.

In contrast, to the south of our study area the North Downs include many areas of easily accessible chalk grassland where there are many kinds of wild flowers, providing some fine examples of flower-rich semi-natural habitats.

Bryophytes

Mosses and liverworts are a rewarding subject of study by naturalists: they are intrinsically beautiful in their own small way, and repay close study.

Bryophytes provide an excuse to get out into the field in the winter months when other botanical subjects are lacking − and indeed they are at their best then, easier to see without the shade cast by tree foliage, and most likely to be flourishing and producing capsules. They grow in many of the different habitats found in the London area − on bare earth, among grasses, on trees, stonework, wall tops, concrete, by rivers, canals etc.

It is an exciting time to be studying bryophytes in the London area, and because there are relatively few naturalists studying them there is still much for the amateur to contribute. Much of the difficulty of identification has been eased by the publication of the recent and very accessible British Bryological Society's Field Guide (follow menu choice "Resources" and then "BBS Field Guide Online").

LNHS Botanical Section organises occasional talks on bryological subjects and one or two field bryology meetings each year; meetings are also often organised by the Hampstead Heath Study group. Everyone is welcome to join these.

Botanists of the future

As the effects of climate change become more apparent, the need for systematic recording of the changes in the distribution of our flora is urgent, and naturalists' societies such as ours have a vital role to play. Our field trips allow us to record London's changing flora while providing experience and learning opportunities for the budding botanists of the future. Some events are specifically for beginners, with no prior knowledge required, but whatever your level of knowledge you should find something of interest at all our meetings.

Whatever your botanical interests, you will find a warm welcome.

Wildlife portraits

Bryum capillare © Jeff Duckett

Bryum capillare is a very common acrocarpous (upright) moss on London walls.

Photo © Jeff Duckett

Rhynchostegium confertum © Jeff Duckett

Rhynchostegium confertum is a common pleurocarpous (sprawling) moss, often with abundant capsules.

Photo © Jeff Duckett

Ulota phyllantha © Jeff Duckett

Ulota phyllantha is a moss which grows on trees, previously rare in London but becoming more common. The leaf tips have clusters of brown gemmae.

Photo © Jeff Duckett

Sphagnum fimbriatum © Jeff Duckett

Sphagnum fimbriatum is the only Sphagnum species on Hampstead Heath which produces sporophytes.

Photo © Jeff Duckett

Riccia fluitans © Jeff Duckett

Riccia fluitans is an aquatic liverwort which in London is found only on Hampstead Heath.

Photo © Jeff Duckett

Lobelia (Lobelia erinus), seen here growing in a crack in a pavement, is one example of various species of plants that escape from cultivation and can occasionally be found in city pavements and walls. Recording these 'pavement plants' makes an interesting subject of study.

Photo © M Carlton

 

 

Misletoe (Viscum album) is a parasitic plant that grows on trees, particularly apples, hawthorns, and Robinia. It can be seen on trees in London's streets, parks and churchyards but is nowhere common. Its sticky white berries are attractive to birds, especially the Mistle Thrush.

Photo © M Carlton