Grasses, Rushes and Sedges as taught by Ben Averis and run by the Central Scotland Forest Trust. And it was brilliant! We met at the car park of Aberlady Local Nature Reserve, which is easy to reach by either car or bus, and is about an hour walk from Longniddry train station (as one of the course attendees found out!). I can highly recommend a visit, whether it's for the bird life, the plants (we saw some rare plants such as bog pimpernel and several less than common sedges), butterflies (we saw small skippers and others!) or just for a walk in a lovely place! Well worth a visit.
|Aberlady LNR. Lovely day for a visit!|
The first plants we came across were common, pretty ubiquitous ones which are very good to be able to identify. These were False oat grass Arrhenatherum elatius, Cock's foot Dactylis glomerata, Couch Elytrigia repens, and Perennial rye-grass Lolium perenne. Moving onto the saltmarsh habitat (SM16 Festuca rubra salt-marsh community) we started to find others that we maybe hadn't come across before. Red fescue Festuca rubra was interesting to see, as fescues are notoriously similar and hard to tell apart. Ben gave us some handy pointers to use in the field which included what location and soils to enable us to be able to pinpoint certain species with more ease. Red fescue can be identified from other fescues due to it's slightly wider stem leaves, whereas all the others have wiry stem and basal leaves. On the saltmarsh, the red fescue is the only wiry leaved grass present.
Another plant which was very interesting to see was the Saltmarsh rush Juncus gerardii, which is one of the top-flowering rushes, and very common in this habitat. We also found a sedge - Long-bract sedge Carex extensa which has wonderful long bracts which come out at right angles from the female spikelets. We also looked for another good saltmarsh sedge, Distant sedge C. distans, where the female spikelets can be up to half the stem length distant from each other.
I must admit that it was a highlight to see Quaking grass Briza media for the first time. It certainly lived up to what I was hoping for, and I really enjoyed that sighting. It's a very delicate, particularly beautiful grass that has a real simplicity and delicate look.
|The lovely Quaking grass|
It was definitely a day of sedges, however. Overall we found ten sedges of the genus Carex and one of the genus Eriophorum - the cotton-grasses.
False fox-sedge C. otrubae has bright, wide yellow leaves, and a surprisingly small flowerhead for the thick looking appearance of the rest of the plant. It's mainly a coastal sedge in Scotland, although grows further inland the further south you go. It's stem is incredibly triangular, and pretty unmistakeable.
Brown sedge C. disticha has a very dense, brown flowerhead, and has mixed male and female flowers so you don't get that distinctive look of the different spikelets.
|Brown sedge flowerhead|
|Bottle sedge leaves|
|Dioecious sedge flowers. Two female flowers to the left and a male spikelet to the right.|
There were many other species that we found, and we also discussed other things - birds, butterflies, habitat management etc. It's so nice to be bunched together with other people that are mad keen about knowing this stuff, and it makes for a very pleasant learning environment. Ben was a brilliant teacher, patient and very, very knowledgeable. I would recommend courses run by him, and by the Central Scotland Forest Trust as it was very well organised and put together. Overall a fantastic day out, and I cannot wait to head out into the field and see what I can find!
|Reed sweet grass flower, with branched bur-reed growing in the water behind.|