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SUFFOLK BOT AN Y 1929-1979 F. W .

SIMPSON

In the Society's first Transactions for 1929 the late A r t h u r Mayfield of Mendlesham gave a brief outline of the work done or left u n d o n e in the various branches of Suffolk Botany. He compared the Suffolk records with those of the sister County of Norfolk. Mayfield was a Norfolk man and as a member of the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society had contributed Suffolk records to their Transactions. H e considered that fungi, especially the micro-fungi, required most attention as the Suffolk lists were very incomplete. For the next twenty years he worked to bring the records of some of the groups up to date. These were published in a number of his articles in our Transactions. Mayfield also had a good knowledge of the Suffolk Lichens and was able to add some fifty species and varieties to the Rev. E. N. Bloomfield's list in the Victoria County History. Hepatics or liverworts and mosses also received his attention and some thirty-five species were added to the C o u n t y flora. A r t h u r Mayfield's important article T h e hepatics, mosses and lichens of Suffolk" was published in the Journal of the Ipswich & District Natural History Society, July 1930, Vol. 1, part 2. Dr. W. M. Hind's "Flora of Suffolk', published in 1889, dealing with flowering plants and the vascular cryptograms, the ferns, horsetails andclub-mosses was then considered adequate except with regard to a few intricate genera as the brambles, Rubus, briars, Rosa, hawkweeds, Hieracium, and sallows, Salix, requiring the attention of specialists. Mayfield was the Society's first recorder for Botany. H e was also very competent in several other fields of natural history, especially mollusca and he was the recorder for worms. T h e Society appointed Mayfield as a local secretary for the Stowmarket District to report upon rare and interesting species, and upon intended injury to the beauty spots of the County. He died in 1958 and his very important collections of lichens and other botanical specimens are now in the H e r b a r i u m of the Norwich Castle Museum. Arthur Mayfield, F . L . S . must be remembered as one of the most outstanding naturalists of this Society. He always worked quietly yet efficiently adding much to our knowledge of our fauna and tiora. In the early years of the Society between 1929 and 1932 there were only a few botanists among the members. Edward Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 pari l.


56

Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 18, Part 1

Platten of N e e d h a m Market was the recorder for Exotic Botany. Miss Nancy Cracknell of Mariesford knew a large n u m b e r of Suffolk plants. Stephen Batchelder, whom I had k n o w n since 1923 as an Ipswich teacher, was a close friend of Mayfield. O n e of the founder members of the Ipswich Field C l u b he possessed considerable knowledge of the local flora and was able to give me much information on a number of sites. O n e site was the old Chillesford bog where round-leaved s u n d e w , Drosera rotundifolia, and other rare flora had been observed since the eighteenth Century. This habitat was destroyed alas by draining and ploughing in 1948. A n o t h e r site was a fen near Diss where fen orchid, Liparis loeselii, was still quite frequent. I r e m e m b e r also the Misses E. and G. Boulter of Rattlesden. For several years they would bring specimens of h e r b paris, Paris quadrifolia, collected from a local wood, to the Society's May meetings. Ernest R. Long, a draper of L o w e s t o f t , joined in 1930. H e was a very keen botanist and o n e of the few who always carried a vasculum when attending meetings. 1 met him in 1933 at the August excursion to H e n g r a v e Hall where Sir John Wood provided soft drinks, served on the veranda of the Hall. Afterwards we visited C a v e n h a m H e a t h . Mr. Long died in 1948. I was able to consult his records, neatly kept in a ledger. A number of his finds were r e c o r d e d in the Transactions. In 1931 Ronald Burn appeared on the scene. He was the son of the Rector of Whatfield. Due to staff cuts he had lost his post as a classical lecturer at Glasgow University. He decided that he needed a hobby and took up botany. Starting from Scratch and with the help of some second hand books, including a copy of H i n d ' s Flora, he rapidly acquired a considerable knowledge of the flowers of the district. He set about finding plants new to the County and a list of some of his finds were published in the Transactions for 1931. Any specimen which did not c o n f o r m almost exactly to measurements as stated in his copy of Hayward's Botanist Pocket-Book revised by D r . G . C. D r u c e , was considered a new variety. Burn, a Scotsman, was a very remarkable character. When in Scotland he claimed to have climbed every high mountain of his country. H e walked very rapidly, although wearing heavy b o o t s soled by the gardener at the Rectory with rubber cut f r o m old m o t o r tyres. H e never seemed to tire and a day out botanising with him was usually very exhausting often crossing ploughed clay fields with a bicycle and lifting it over high fences and gates. H e had trouble with Claude Morley over the Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 part 1.


57 1929-1979 editing of his records. He resigned in 1937, by then however he was losing interest in phanerogams and turned his attention to the study of lichens. S. A. Manning became one of his pupils. After his father died in 1937 Burn left Whatfield and obtained a post as a reader with the Oxford Press. I last met him at Oxford in 1946. He died in 1974. In 1933 Burn took over from Mayfield as recorder for flowers. Mayfield continued as the recorder of the cryptogams. After Burn resigned Morley asked me to undertake theflowerssection. In 1932 Miss Edith Rawlins came to Suffolk to be a governess to Lady Rowley's children at Holbecks, Hadleigh. Although Miss Rawlins never joined this Society she was a keen member of the Wild Flower Society and during her stay in the County played an active part recording many very interestingflowers.It was not long before Miss Rawlins and Mr. Burn, living in the next parish, met and were botanising together. With Burn's help it was not surprising that Miss Rawlins won the Wild Flower Society's annual competition for finding the largest number of flowers. Miss Rawlins left Holbecks in 1938 and took up a new post in Ireland where she added several new records to Dr. Robert Lloyd Praeger's Irish Flora. Dr. Edward A. Ellis joined the Society in 1931. He is, of course, a well known naturalist, broadcaster and writer, specialising in micro-fungi. We met in 1932 after Ronald Burn had arranged a meeting for Northfield Wood, Onehouse. At that time Dr. Ellis lived at Gorleston and he cycled most of the way to Onehouse. Other pre-War botanists who used to bring me specimens for identification were Mrs. C. Bull of Levington Hall and Miss E. Jauncey of Ipswich. The sudden death of Claude Morley in 1951 brought about a number of changes in the running of the Society. Morley knew far more about Suffolk botany than he claimed. Reading through the past Transactions and Proceedings, which he edited from 1929-1951, one feels amazed at his immense general knowledge on almost every aspect of the fauna and flora of the County and also its geology and history. The way he compiled and edited was bold and unusual. Unfortunately his editing sometimes caused unfavourable reactions among members. In one instance the changes he made to a member's botanical article resulted in a legal action. Morley was an avid collector and I remember that on one occasion he brought to a meeting a large bĂźndle of solomon's seal, Polygonatum SUFFOLK BOTANY

Trans. Suff. Nat. Vol. 18 part 1.


58

Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 18, Part 1

multiflorum, from its Ramsholt site where it flourished for many years until being exterminated finally by some unfavourable developments in 1974. A new generation of botanists joined the Society after the War, in the late forties and early fifties. Among those who have now passed on and who gave valuable help were Henry B o r e h a m of Bury, D. J. Carpenter of Felixstowe, Miss M. M. Whiting of Blythburgh and Kew and Miss J. C. N. Willis of Ipswich. Miss Willis became the Society's Honorary Secretary after Morley's death. In the early fifties the Botanical Society of the British Isles commenced a distribution maps scheme to record the British Flora for an atlas. Special recording cards were issued and Miss Willis played a prominent part organising the botanists of the County. Nearly one hundred botanists took part, seventy-nine being members of the Society. The cards were marked on a parish basis, one card for each parish. However some recorders used one card for more than one parish. The atlas was based on records for ten kilometre squares and as many Suffolk parishes are in more than one Square it was frequently difficult to know in which Square the record was made. Inquiries produced often negative results. Several botanists undertook the recording of more than one parish and very fully marked cards were received from A. L. Bull, N. S. P. Mitchell, M. Rutterford and Mrs. E. M. Southwell. O n e of the most interesting and important finds was made by Mrs. Southwell of the military orchid, Orchis militaris, near Mildenhall. The site is now protected as a nature reserve. Conservation In the 1929 Transactions the late Canon A. P. Waller of Waldringfield wrote a short article on "The need of a new outlook on our countryside' to stem the rushing torrent of vandalism. Claude Morley also, in his first Editorial, "Beauty spots and uglification', outlines many of the evils which were affecting Suffolk wild life, such as the felling of historic woods, uprooting of ferns and plants, litter, fires and the pollution of the River Gipping. DĂźring the past fifty years we have witnessed an intensification of changes in the countryside and the rapid destruction of a very large number of habitats of rare and beautiful flora. This process will continue and is likely to accelerate, putting still more pressures on remaining undeveloped habitats not protected by preservation. The Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 part 1.


S U F F O L K BOTANY

1929-1979

59

monstrous machines used today can destroy an ancient wood in a matter of a few days, and the chain saws cut down the trees which may have been growing for centuries in only a few minutes. A number of the primary oxlip woods and copses have now gone or reduced to mere groves. These include Great Papeley Wood, Barrow, Denham Thicks, Chipley and Apple Acre Woods, near Hundon, Livermere Thicks and Lucy Wood, Elmsett. A large area of Monkspark Wood has been lost. O t h e r old deciduous woodland has been clear felled and replanted mainly with conifers such as Bruisyard Wood, Stanstead Great Wood and Woolpit Wood. The removal of hedges, banks, green lanes and ancient trackways, draining of marshes and ploughing-up of old pastures has seriously depleted the tlora. Machine cutting of roadside verges can be very harmful to some species of our fiora such as the Wild Orchids. Their spikes are cut off before the flowers have a chance to open. They do not produce a second spike in a season and therefore no seeds are produced. Sapling trees are prevented from developing. If left they would soon grow up and help to restore beauty to the Suffolk landscape, where it has suffered in recent years by the often indiscriminate tree felling and the loss due to Dutch Elm disease. Crop spraying and the use of various poisonous farm chemicals, little used or unknown in 1929, has almost exterminated some cornfield species which were formerly fairly frequent or locally abundant such as the com buttercup, Ranunculus arvensis, shepherd's needle, Scandix pecten-veneris, and cornflower, Centaurea cyanus. Spurge-Laurel, Daphne laureola, which used to be quite common as a wayside hedgerow shrub on the chalky boulder clay soils has now become comparatively scarce due to annual machine cutting of hedges to bank level. Increasing demands on coastal area for recreational use and other developments has resulted in loss or considerable damage to many habitats as at Landguard Common, Felixstowe, for extensions to the dock area, and at Sizewell where an important habitat has now beeri enclosed for the site of a proposed second Nuclear Power Station. Trampling, the motor car and caravan are all factors which are seriously damaging many sites. In 1938 the Society helped to acquire on behalf of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation the first floral reserve to be established in Suffolk at Mickfield. DĂźring a visit I made to the area early in the year I was appalled to find that several old and important meadows were being Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. IS pari 1.


60

Suffolk

NaturalHistory,

Vol. 18, Parti

ploughed-up, including those with fritillaries. It was obvious that unless something was not done quickly this attractive flower might disappear from the County within a few years. L e t t e r s were exchanged and the owner agreed to seil one of the meadows of his farm. A few members and other friends h e l p e d towards its purchase price of ÂŁ75. This meadow was a very rieh habitat with many attractive species. The fritillary population was almost as good as that of the Fox fritillary m e a d o w at Framsden, now acquired by the Suffolk Trust for N a t u r e Conservation, founded in 1961. At present the Trust either owns or manages some thirty reserves in the County, the majority are of botanical importance. T h e Nature Conservancy Council looks after some excellent areas such as C a v e n h a m and T u d d e n h a m Heaths. The Society for the P r o m o t i o n of Nature Conservation acquired about 140 acres of M o n k s p a r k and Felsham Hall Woods when the whole area of 400 acres of woodland was threatened with destruetion s o m e ten years ago. This woodland has a very varied flora with s o m e species usually associated with primary or very old secondary woodland. T h e oxlip, Primula elatior, is abundant, growing with much water avens, Geum rivale, and the attractive hybrid avens, G.x intermedium. H e r b paris, Paris quadrifolia, occurs in several areas. Bull's Wood, Cockfield, is very near and also has a good oxlip and water avens flora. 1t is m a n a g e d by the Trust. G r o t o n Wood, owned by the Trust, is outside the oxlip area and has a mixed flora; the small leaved lime, Tilia cordata, is one of the chief trees of this wood, w h e r e it is probably native. Rare Fen flora is protected by the T r u s t in reserves at Redgrave, Lopham, Thelnetham and L a k e n h e a t h . Marsh pea, Lathyrus palustris, and milk parsley, Peucedanum palustre, are protected in reserves at White Cast M a r s h and Spratts W a t e r , Carlton Colville. Grass of Parnassus, Parnassia palustris, is protected at G r o m f o r d M e a d o w , Snape. Lady's mantle, Alchemilla filicaulis ssp. vestita, grows in some quantity in meadows at Cransford. The rare annual Breckland speedwells, Veronica verna, V. praecox, V. triphyllos, have a special site at the Gallops, T u d d e n h a m , near Barton Mills, where seeds of the three species were sown a few years ago. Small mediaeval pastures at M o n e w d e n and Otley are preserved for a number of attractive flowers, including green-winged orchid, Orchis morio, and m e a d o w saffron, Colchicum autumnale. At Landguard C o m m o n , Felixstowe, there is an area managed by the Trust. S o m e interesting coastal species have survived the various

Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18

partl.


1929-1979 61 hazards affecting this site during the pastfiftyyears. The Trust has arranged also for the protection of a number of roadside verges and old hedges. These have been marked by white posts and the letters N.R. Rare species protected include crested cow-wheat, Melampyrum cristatum, yellow vetchling, Lathyrus aphaca, and man orchid, Aceras anthropophorum. Much remains to be done if we are to prevent the loss of several indigenous species which are now known to occur in only one or two sites in the County. Thefiguresbelow indicate the extent of the losses during the pastfiftyyears. I have considered only those species of the British flora, native or long established. SUFFOLK BOTANY

Years

number of species becoming extinct

1929-1938 1939-1948 1949-1958 1959-1968 1969-1978

8

3

18

7 8

Another 16 species have not been recorded between 1974-78. We have therefore lost at least 44 species in the past 50 years. It is interesting to compare this total with earlier years. Records show that 40 species were lost in the 153 years between 1775 and 1928. At present some 56 species of the Suffolk flora are known on only one or two sites in the County. Some habitats are very vulnerable, especialy in areas where drainage and reclamation is being intensified. A few species thought to be extinct may reappear or be found in sites previously overlooked. I refound clustered belltlower, Campanula glomerata, at Moulton in 1977 and at Dalham in 1978. Its site at Risby Poors Heath was ploughed-up about 20 years ago. Com cockle, Agrostemma githago, was refound in 1978. P. G. Lawson reported two flowering specimens at the edge of afieldat Dunwich. By way of contrast during this period there has been an increase in the distribution of about 40 species. These are mainly aliens or introductions. Outstanding examples are rosebay wilow-herb orfireweed,Epilobium angustifolium, buddleia, Buddleja Trans. Suff. Nat. Vol. 18 partl.


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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 18, Part 1

davidii, Oxford ragwort, Senecio squalidus, pineapple weed or rayless mayweed, Matricaria matricarioides, spring beauty, Montia perfoliata, Californian borage or tar weed, Amsinckia intermedia, and cord grass, Spartina anglica. F. W. Simpson, 40, Ruskin Road, Ipswich IP4 1PT.

Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 part 1.

Suffolk botany, 1929-1979  
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