Sunday, 10 April 2016

Survey of Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) with Celebrity Endorsement

Another week, another Wychwood Flora Group survey, this time extending an already long time-series of the number of flowering plants of Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) at 4 locations in and around Chadlington, which is the other side of Chipping Norton.

There were hundreds on the village green.  If there was a habitat preference it was for areas where there was less competition from grasses and more aggressive plants, because the Muscari were both out in the open, accompanied by cowslips, but also under bushes in shade.   There is a widely held view that they prefer a south-facing, dry corner but looking closely today I don't think that is necessarily the case.    

Muscari neglectum
Village Green, Chadlington
Edge of Arable Field, Chadlington
We started out as a survey party of 8, but were joined at the final site by no less than Jeremy Clarkson, because we were after all on his land (but with permission to be there).  There was  no sign of shotguns being readied to dispense with trespassers or ploughs prepared to erase any trace of the Muscari growing there as might be consistent with the Top Gear presenter, but it is well known that the TV persona is far removed from what the private individual is like, and we found Jeremy interested in the rare species he had on his land with perhaps a little pride.   Indeed his land management is very sympathetic to wildlife - a nearby meadow had lots of cowslips, and skylarks. Although greater public access would be terrific it would end up being overrun by dog walkers,  the uncontrolled pooch I encountered elsewhere today was called Oscar.    WFG are keen to return later in the summer to carry out a full survey of the plants there later in the year.  Inter alia  I suspect that there will be 3 or 4 orchid species. 

I almost forgot; unlike most TV personalities he is actually a lot taller than he looks on the screen!

I do wonder if at one time Muscari neglectum was found in some of the arable fields around Hook Norton, because quite a few of the gardens in the village, especially the older cottages, have the plant. Druce's Flora of Oxfordshire has a record from 1881 at Adderbury and the Chadlington site, which are not too far away.

There are also some possible hybrids of  M. neglectum and the common garden Grape hyacinth M. armeniacum.    I found, though, on a very brief review, an interesting PhD thesis by Ylva Heed which concludes that M. neglectum has several ploidal levels such that species boundaries are hard to define (   I will collect examples over the next few days of the pure plants and intermediates in and around the village.  Not that I will be able to make any contribution to science in this molecular age.


  1. Thanks Terry, a very interesting post - and I think it is still possible "in this molecular age" for field botanists to make a huge contribution to science, by recording what grows where and sending records to the BSBI County Recorder for adding to the Database.

    1. Absolutely right, but I think it can go beyond simply recording. The long run data sets on Muscari and Gagea which Ken and Barbara have developed are really interesting in that they may shed light on why a species thrives or otherwise. For instance
      I am planning to link these to climate data to see if there are any correlations

    2. Sounds interesting! Any chance that you will be writing up your research and submitting it to New Journal of Botany?

    3. Sounds interesting! Any chance that you will be writing up your research and submitting it to New Journal of Botany?