So I couldn’t have been the only person today thinking that a botany field trip on a grey day in the first week of March in the middle of the post-industrial, graffiti-riddled canals of Digbeth in Birmingham was going to be a total bust. I must confess that unless you can eat them, or unless a bee is sitting on one, plants are just not my thing – but I had my little socks blown off today… I had the great pleasure of tagging along (feeling like a bit of a gate crasher to be honest, I mean, do they even LET entomologists go to these things?) with the great Prof. Ian Trueman and the inspiring Mike Poulton on a botany walk around the canals & streets of Digbeth as part of the Wildlife Trust’s Improving Nature conference – a celebration of the ongoing Nature Improvement Area project. The walk was just fantastic, and I saw several species I have never (knowingly) seen before…
The above photo is of a wall around the corner from the Bond, Digbeth, where the event was hosted. The wall featured 4 different species of fern within the space of about 2 feet: Maidenhair Speedwort (Asplenium trichomanes), Intermediate Polypody (Polypodium interjectum), Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) and Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum)!
Along the canal wall, we also saw Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) – ‘hart’ being an old word for ‘deer’ – the leaf is long and unbranched and waxy-looking. But even THIS was spectacular – as if you look at the photo above, you can see that the leaves are split like a forked tongue – called a ‘bifurcation’ – is very rare!
So next time someone asks you to go botanising in a seemingly desolate concrete jungle, set aside your preconceptions and you never know what you will find! (Provided you have a couple of awesome botanical geniuses with you!!!)