Suburban botanising

Monica Frisch

This spring, when the lockdown resulting from the covid-19 pandemic meant I was not going out to work, I nevertheless went botanising. Although without transport I did not go far, I was determined to get out for a walk every day and liked to have a focus for my perambulations.

This landscaped area alongside the flats on Rustat Avenue may not look particularly interesting, but in previous years I had found unexpected plants there, so it was the focus for some of my walks. What people who saw me peering at the ground thought I was doing I don’t know.

But I had to peer at the ground as the vegetation was very short and the interesting plants very small. Between mid-March and mid-April there was lots of Early Forget-me-not Myosotis ramossisima and also Spring Vetch Vicia lathyroides (which is too tiny for me to photograph) which is normally associated with sandy soils. The suspicion is that the builders may have used sand from the Breckland, where the plant is more common, which brought with it the seeds.

The area has been landscaped, with some planting of trees and, mostly under them, large numbers of spring bulbs including snowdrops and narcissi. But Spring Starflower Tristagma uniflorum (formerly Ipheion) appeared well away from all the planted bulbs and looked as if it might have turned up unaided.

There were also plants to be found in the neighbouring streets and not just ‘weeds’ like Dandelions, Groundsel or Shepherd’s Purse. Some were garden escapes, like this fine species of Euphorbia. I could see it growing in a garden but it had clearly spread outside the garden.

In the same one kilometre square as the Rustat Avenue flats is Coleridge Recreation Ground. Much of this is grassland but along the railings there is a quite large patch of a Fumitory that I had not seen before. White Ramping Fumitory Fumaria capreolata is an alien in Cambridgeshire but has been found at a variety of locations in Cambridge. Alan Leslie had first recorded the plants scattered along the railings on the Davy Road edge of the Recreation Ground in 2008.

A somewhat unexpected sight also along the railings on Davy Road was several plants of Broad Bean Vicia fava. It shows you never know what plants you will come across during suburban botanising.

All the plants photographed were recorded in southern half of the one kilometre square TL4657 between 26th March and 27th April 2020.

Monica Frisch