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A CENTURY OF CHANGE ALEC BULL STEVENS H E N S L O W was a scientist, Professor of Geology and Botany, the man who taught Darwin and encouraged him to join the 'Beagle', beloved Rector of Hitcham from 1837 until his death, founder of clubs, benefit societies, allotment schemes and many more, organiser of parish outings to places of interest, such as Cambridge or the Great Exhibition. More than this, he taught the village children Botany and left a list of plants of his adopted village covering nearly 25 years. In 1858, at the annual Horticultural Show, the Herbarium prize went to Maria Gosling for 171 complete herbarium specimens which were allowed for at one penny per sheet. The rules then followed for the 1859 competition, amongst which we find, 'to identify specimens, candidates should consult the School Herbarium. Failing this the Rector should be consulted'. Elsewhere it is recorded that a curate in the parish, after the death of Henslow, was flabbergasted when a very small girl came to him clutching a plant, and asked if it was a monocotyledon or a dicotyledon. JOHN

The present author's knowledge of the flora of Hitcham is confined mainly to the period 1944-1960, although he has made occasional visits since. Consulting Henslow's list, one immediately becomes aware of vast changes which have taken place in the intervening hundred years, a brief discussion of which is necessary before considering the list itself. Woodland With the exception of two remote fragments, the present woods are not at all species rieh, and are probably of no great antiquity. Henslow knew an exceptionally rieh woodland flora covering a fairly wide ränge of soil acidity, as at that time there were two considerable tracts of woodland: Hitcham Wood, which comprised some 102 acres, was cleared and turned into farm land about 1860, and Eastwood of 100 acres on loamier soil, which remained until after 1850. Grassland It was customary for grassland to remain unploughed for very long periods of time, and either grazed all summer, or from midsummer, after a hayerop had been taken. Thus a good sward of native plants became established which could remain undisturbed for centuries. In addition, Hitcham is a water shed, with the streams and ditches to north and south, flowing in


221 opposite directions, and many of the pastures had springs and tiny streams issuing from the clay, giving added botanical interest, much of which has since been lost by drainage and the plough. Little grassland is to be found in the vilage today, most is artificial, and none unfertilized. However, a few old pastures did survive until the 1950s or thereabouts, even remaining unfertilized. A few fragments of grasslandfloramay still exist in remote corners of some of the miles of grassy lanes, if they have not been churned up by tractors, or overgrown with neglect. A CENTURY OF CHANGE

Ponds

A number of aquatics have disappeared, due to infilling, fertilizer and herbicide pollution. Arable weeds

Species disappearance had begun even before herbicides made their mark, due to the improved Standards for the cleaning of seed com which had already eliminated such plants as Com Cockle and Pheasant's Eye, both of which appear in Henslow's list. Even such a plant as Vipers Bugloss may well have been brought in with seed from a light land part of the County. More recently the spray has replaced the horse hoe, and many more plants have disappeared or become rare, such as Com Crowfoot, always called 'Joy' round Hitcham. Also almost gone are the 'stock in trade' plants of the local herbalist, which included Henbane, Thorn Apple and Borage. The second named is of interest as it appeared in 1947, when an old cottage garden site, grassland forfiftyyears or more, was broken up and Borage still occurred in one spot every year between 1944 and 1960, and may still do so. For the benefit of this account, varieties on Henslow's list, which have since been accepted as fĂźll species have been upgraded accordingly. Included here for example, Lamium hybridum. This gives a list totalling 406 species which Henslow accepted for the vilage. One or two of these have names which lead to confusion. Under genus Scirpus he included Lake Clubrush and no specific epithet. Did he mean Scirpus lacustris, the Bullrush so called, or the Wood Clubrush, Scirpus sylvaticus which still occurred until recently by streams a few miles away? The 1944-1960 list included 395 species, but thefigureis of little value, as a number of new species have come in, a number of casuals have been recorded, and a number of plants of garden origin have become naturalized.


222

Suffolk

Natural

History,

Vol.

17, Part

3

I n the lists b e l o w the r e m a r k s c o l u m n g i v e s the p r e s e n t d a y Situation as nearly as possible. Woodland species

ig44-igรถo

Helleborus viridis H. foetidus Aquilegia vulgaris Berberis vulgaris Viola Hirta Oxalis acetosella Frangula alnus Sorbus aria Geum rivale Sedum telephium Chrysosplenium oppositifolium Viscum album Viburnum lantana Galium odoratum Imda conyza

Extinct Extinct Extinct Extinct Common Extinct? Extinct Extinct Extinct? Extinct Extinct Extinct? Extinct Extinct Extinct

Carduus crispus Melampyrum pratense Teucrium scorodonia Scutellaria galericulata Neottia nidus-avis Ophrys insectiflora

N o t seen Extinct Extinct Extinct Extinct Extinct

Paris quadrifolia Allium ursinum Luzula multiflora Scirpus species

N o t seen Extinct N o t seen Extinct

Remarks

N o w very rare Persisted until c. 1918

Still occurs a few miles away

M a y still occur within three miles P r o b a b l y extinct

Paris quadrifolia m a y still o c c u r , as M r . S i m p s o n s a w it in o n e of t h e w o o d l a n d f r a g m e n t s j u s t b e f o r e t h e w a r . T h e loss of t h e a b o v e species is p r o b a b l y entirely d u e t o the clearance of t h e t w o large w o o d s , w h i l e t h e loss of t h e grassland s p e c i e s listed b e l o w is the result of p l o u g h i n g d u r i n g t h e t w o w a r s a n d since. H e r b i c i d e s h a v e also p l a y e d their part in r e c e n t years, particularly w h e r e these h a v e b e e n a l l o w e d to drift f r o m arable c r o p s , across old d r i f t w a y s a n d roadside v e r g e s . It is interesting to n o t e that m a n y are r e g a r d e d as plants of chalk grassland i n d i c a t i n g t h e h i g h lime c o n t e n t of t h e local b o u l d e r clay. Grassland species Reseda lutea

ig44-ig6o Extinct

Linum catharticum Polygala vulgaris Ononis spinosa Trifolium ochroleucon T. fragiferum T. arvense Potentilla erecta

Locally f r e q u e n t Rare Locally f r e q u e n t Locally f r e q u e n t Locally f r e q u e n t Extinct? Extinct

Poterium sanguisorba Saxifraga tridactylites

Extinct N o t seen

Remarks M a y h a v e been arable, casual Roadsides only now P r e s u m a b l y extinct R a r e o n roadsides Roadsides only Little c h a n g e Probably in w o o d land Casual?


A CENTURY OF CHANGE Grassland species Pimpinella major Silaum silaus Carduus nutans Cirsium eriophorum C. acaulon Centaurea scabiosa Campanula rotundifolia Blackstonia perfoliata Cynoglossum officinale Verbascum nigrum Rhinanthus minor Thymus (pulegioides)? Origanum vulgare Nepeta cataria Marrubium vulgare Betonica officinalis Verbena officinalis Polygonum bistorta Rumex pulcher Orchis morio Dactylorhiza maculata, ssp. ericetorum, incl. u n d e r spotted orchis Dactylorhiza traunsteineri, as M a r s h O r c h i d Anacamptis pyramidalis Gymnadenia conopsea (sensu stricto) Coeloglossum viride Aceras anthropophorum

Ophrys

apifera

Ornithogalum umbellatum Hordeum secalinum Briza media Sieglingia decumbens

ig44-ig6o Extinct Locally f r e q u e n t O n c e as casual Extinct Locally f r e q u e n t Extinct N o t seen Scarce in one or t w o grassy lanes O n e small colony N o t seen Often abundant Extinct Extinct Extinct Extinct Extinct Very rare Extinct Extinct Locally a b u n d a n t

223 Remarks Rare, roadsides only R a r e by roadsides Probably extinct M a y still persist N o w extinct P r e s u m a b l y extinct R a r e by roadsides

Possibly w o o d l a n d Disappeared 1972 Probably extinct

Locally a b u n d a n t

Extinct

Locally a b u n d a n t Small n u m b e r s

Extinct M a y persist

Locally a b u n d a n t O n e small colony Probably extinct, t h o u g h it still occurred about two miles away Small n u m b e r s annually O n e s t r o n g colony Locally f r e q u e n t Common Extinct

Extinct Extinct

N o t seen for years M a y persist M a y still occur Roadsides only now

Arable w e e d s It would be futile to try to list all the species which have declined sharply since the war, due to herbicides, though many such as Sinapsis, Papaver and Kickxia ssp. seem able to take advantage of crops such as sugar beet and beans, even now. The following list describes only plants which are extinct, or have become really rare. ig44-i^6o

Speeles Adonis annua Ranunculus arvensis

Extinct Common

Agrostemma githago Scandix pecten-veneris

Extinct Common

Remarks N o t seen for m a n y years N o t seen for m a n y years


224

Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 17, Part 3

Species Toriiis nodosa T. arvensis Galium tricornutum Legousia hybrida Cuscuta epithymum, var. tnfolii Lithospermum arvense Anchusa arvensis Echium vulgare

1944-1960 Probably extinct Probably extinct Probably extinct Rare

Remarks

Extinct Common N o t seen Once as casual

Veronica agrestis

Not seen

Melampyrum arvense Lamium amplexicaule Allium vineale Lolium temulentum

'Clover D o d d e r ' Rare now Possibly casual Probably, Henslow's was too Henslow does not include V. polita

Extinct Not seen Extinct Extinct

Probably extinct

Aquatics This section included species growing in or beside ponds or streams, mostly not tolerant of excessive nitrogen. Species Rorippa islandica Apium inundatum Myriophyllum spicatum Oenanthe aquatica Bidens tripartita Ceratophyllum demersum Juncus compressus Zannichellia palustris Triglochin palustre Equisetum hyemale

1944-1960 Not seen Not seen Not seen Not seen Probably extinct Not seen Extinct N o t seen Not seen Extinct

Remarks

It is possible that some of these may have persisted until 1944, but most at least must be extinct by now. Conclusion Taking the most conservative figure, it is evident from the above that something like sixty native species have disappeared from the village in the 100 years. Their places have been taken, in part, by new arrivals, or plants able to survive the polluted margins of an arable monoculture which has replaced the balanced environment and its native plants, which Henslow knew. Alec Bull, Hillcrest, East Tuddenham, Derehatn.

A century of change  
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