N O T E S O N OENANTHE PIMPINELLOIDES O. LACHENALIIC. C. G M E L .
F. W . SIMPSON
Until 1805 Oenanthe lachenalii had not been described as a distinct species. An illustration of O. pimpinelloides by J. Sowerby, 1796, in my copy of William Withering's 'British Plants' is certainly of O. lachenalii. The early botanists can therefore be forgiven for their recording errors. However, even after the species had been described, many 19th Century floras led botanists to consider that O. lachenalii was only a sub-species or even a variety of O. pimpinelloides. Thus much confusion resulted in the recording of both species. O. pimpinelloides is quite local in Britain and the majority of British botanists have never observed it in the field. Whenever I have mentioned its occurrence in Suffolk several botanists have been sceptical, and I was also doubtful until Mrs. E. M. Hyde pursued the matter to a successful conclusion. I showed a specimen to several distinguished botanists, but only the late J. E . Lousley was able to name it at a glance. Some botanists suggested that the only way to identify O. pimpinelloides with certainty was to dig up the plant and look for its rounded root tubers. A n o t h e r distinguishing feature is the appearance of its bright green radical leaves during late autumn, winter and early spring, which are similar to those of Pimpinella saxifraga in some respects. O. lachenalii has very few radical leaves and these soon wither up. J. E. Lousley told me that O. pimpinelloides prefers a dry, usually gravelly soil, and not the wet sites favoured by O. lachenalii. At the Bourne Bridge site, O. pimpinelloides flowers in June and early July, at least one month earlier than O. lachenalii at any of its Suffolk habitats. O. lachenalii is still fairly frequent in coastal areas, favouring the upper grassy zones of the saltings, open reed beds, as at Snape and Blythburgh, and also sites beside brackish ditches. It also occurs in a few freshwater marshes and fens, but now very sparingly. The Suffolk records for O. pimpinelloides in Hind's Flora are all suspect. Hind himself did not know the plant. He records it from Tuddenham Bog, and his herbarium specimen is O. lachenalii. Davy's specimen from Leiston, recorded in the Flora, is also incorrectly identified. The specimens are in the Ipswich Museum Herbarium. The late Miss B. Schafer of Cattawade, Brantham, recorded O. pimpinelloides in a list of some Brantham plants, c. 1960. Now that the species has been found in that parish it is perhaps unfair not accepting her record, but O. lachenalii was recorded in Cattawade Marshes in Henslow and Skepper (1860). A visit to the site or a specimen is essential for the correct determination of all doubtful plants. Until at least 1861, and probably much later, O. pimpinelloides was found in Essex at Wigborough, Virley and Mersea, about 20 miles from its present site at Brantham. The note in Gibson's 'Flora of Essex' (1862) by E. G. Varenne is interesting: 'Road sides, fields and pastureland at Wigborough and Virley plentifully; not in the saltings which bound the meadows. In the Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 18 pari 2.
N O T E S O N O E N A N T H E PIMPINELLOIDES L.
early flowering condition it bears some resemblance to certain states of Pimpinella saxifraga, and also to young plants of the wild carrot. The tubers are well known to the rustic population of the locality by the name of pig nuts.' E. G. Varenne (1811-87) of Kelvedon, Essex, also contributed several interesting records to Hind's Flora. In the 'Flora of Norfolk' by the Rev. Kirby Trimmer (1866), there are ten records of O. pimpinelloides and only five for O. lachenalii. Trimmer describes the plant as occurring in: 'slow waters, ponds and marsh ditches. Somewhat rare.' Although Norfolk possesses a very varied and rieh flora, due to its wealth of varied habitats, only O. lachenalii should, so far, be considered as occurring in the County. References Gibson, G. S. (1862). Flora of Essex. 136, London. Henslow, Rev. J. S. & Skepper, E. (1860). Flora of Suffolk. 35, London. Hind, W. M. (1889). Flora of Suffolk. 170, London. Jermyn, S. T. (1974). Flora of Essex. 219, Essex Naturalists' Trust Ltd. Trimmer, Rev. K. (1866). Flora of Norfolk. 59, London. Withering, W. (1787-92). A Botanical Arrangement of British Plants (Ind. ed.) 296, Birmingham. Plates from Sowerby's English Botany. F. W. Simpson 40 Ruskin Road, Ipswich IP4 1PT.
Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc.