Tuesday, 4 April 2017

2017 Survey of Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) in Whitehill Wood

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem  is a super plant.   This year's count by the Wychwood Flora Group found 12 flowering plants with a total of 22 flowers, a little below average.   The number of flowering plants is quite variable year by year and I ran the count dataset which goes back to 1998  against climate statistics for Brize Norton which is the closest weather station that I could find.  I could see no meaningful correlations.

What was apparent is that there were very large numbers of non-flowering plants.  I selected at random a 5.5m long stretch of the path, counting plants on both sides to a distance of 0.4m on the river side, and 1m on the wooded bank side.   In total there was 1 flowering plant (with 3 flowers) against 63 non flowering plants at various stages of development.  Someone in the party thought that from seed to flowers takes 6 years, but the number of non-flowering plants is a ratio 10 times that which would be expected.  Why do so few plants flower?
Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

Leaf tip - Yellow Star-of Bethlehem

Leaf tip - Bluebell for comparison

Non-flowering plants of Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

Another of the party suggested we look out for two rust fungi that afflicts Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem.   I found both; a round one which I think is Uromyces gageae, and an oblong one, Vankya ornithogali.   Only the more mature plants were affected.
Rust fungus - Uromyces gageae
This year the toothwort was fully in flower and easily spotted.  Always a treat.



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