Co. Down, v.c. H38

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County Recorder

Graham Day

Mobile on meeting days: 07764794687

County report for 2023

Recording Card

If you would like to record in the county, then you may download the County Down recording card here. Species lists should normally be within 1 km squares where possible (4 figure grid reference), with rare plants preferably recorded to 10 m (8 figure grid reference). Any notes on rare species found would be appreciated.

>> Down recording card (front) (back)

Recording in Co. Down

About 4400 plant records were made in County Down in 2022. My thanks go to those who contributed, including Julia Nunn, Paul Green, Valerie Macartney, Jo Whatmough, Jake Dalzell, Ian Rippey and Margaret Marshall. I spent much of the recording season trying to relocate plants for the Irish Rare Plant Project. Only one find was made, Crambe maritima (Sea-kale) by South Bay on the Ards peninsula. This seems to be the same location where it was seen last by S.A. Bennett in 1913.

Jake Dalzell, a student at Cambridge, has been recording on some of the western islands of Strangford Lough. There are no botanical records for many of these as access is difficult, so his work is definitely covering new ground. Jake presented a poster of the project at the British & Irish Botanical Conference in London. His report is in preparation, but will contain about 1900 records covering at least 160 taxa.

The New Year Plant Hunt produced some interesting records including Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort) and Senecio inaequidens (Narrow-leaved Ragwort) which were both in flower by the RSPB Window on Wildlife, at Belfast docks.

In April, Catabrosa aquatica (Whorl-grass) was noted by Clandeboye Estate, the first time since 1981 that this declining species has been seen in this hectad.

In May, a visit was made to Killynether Wood by Scrabo to check on Ranunculus auricomus (Goldilocks Buttercup), and to look again for Sorbus rupicola (Rock Whitebeam). The former was missing from its previous station due to encroachment by brambles, but was found in increased numbers on the trackside a little further on. Sorbus rupicola (Rock Whitebeam) has not been seen since 2004, and is probably gone from this site.

Most of the spring ‘specials’ were seen at Murlough in May; Erodium lebelii (Sticky Stork’s-bill), Euphorbia paralias (Sea Spurge), E. portlandica (Portland Spurge), Logfia minima (Small Cudweed), Myosotis ramosissima (Early Forget-me-not) and Viola tricolor (Wild Pansy) were seen in some numbers. However Teesdalia nudicaulis (Shepherd’s Cress) was hard to find, and Cerastium semidecandrum (Little Mouse-ear) was not seen. Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) was present in the hundreds, and Euphrasia confusa (Confused Eyebright) was found on a later visit with Jo Whatmough in August.

Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. umbellatum (Star-of-Bethlehem), an accidental introduction, were seen in municipal planting beds at Cloghy, Ards Peninsula in May.

Crambe maritima (Sea-kale) was found at Foreland Point, north of Donaghadee in June, the first record in this hectad since 1975.

The find of the year was made with Valerie Macartney in early June, when a large colony of Vaccinium oxycoccos (Cranberry) was seen in flower on the saddle between Butter and Spaltha Mountains in the western Mournes. This is the first record for this species from the high Mournes. Other than this station, it is likely that this species is extinct in Co. Down. Huperzia selago (Fir Clubmoss) and Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) were also seen on this outing.

Luzula multiflora ssp. hibernica (Heath Wood-rush) (first VC record) and self-sown Nothofagus alpina (Rauli) (found by Valerie Macartney) were noted at Tollymore Forest Park in June.

In late April 2021 a devastating fire occurred on the lower slopes of the eastern Mourne Mountains covering an area of about 3.5 km2 from approximately the Bloody Bridge to Slieve Donard. The minister’s statement on the fire appears here;

Valerie Macartney and I made a visit to the locality in mid-June, primarily to check on the impact on the flora about the Black Stairs on Slieve Donard. The fire had been extinguished just short of the Black Stairs, and the particularly well-known Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort) colony seems to have entirely escaped damage. Rosa spinosissima (Burnet Rose) and Crepis paludosa (Marsh Hawk’s-beard) were noted in the vicinity, and there were frequent Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid) plants in full flower, some within the burnt area. A later visit to the area by Eagle Rock on Slieve Donard produced Empetrum nigrum (Crowberry), Huperzia selago (Fir Clubmoss), Selaginella selaginoides (Lesser Clubmoss), and several colonies of Micranthes stellaris (Starry Saxifrage).

While walking to the Black Stairs, the Arbutus unedo (Strawberry-tree) colony by the Glen River in Donard Park was passed and found to be very heavily diseased. There were only a few larger trees remaining and no younger trees. A sample was taken and sent to the plant pathology laboratories (DAERA) at Newforge in Belfast. A test for Phytophthera ramorum (Ramorum Disease) proved negative. I expect all the Arbutus unedo trees to die within a short time, and it will be a sad loss.

In early July I went looking along the cliffs at Benderg Bay for Hyoscamus niger (Henbane) following a record submitted on iRecord. I was unable to find it, but did note Lycopsis arvensis (Bugloss) in a field by Killard Point.

In mid-July I found Ruppia maritima (Beaked Tasselweed) on The Slumps salt marsh by Gransha Point on Strangford Lough.

The National Trust at Mount Stewart has been restoring historical ponds in fields around the estate. On a visit with Toby Edwards of the National Trust, Myosotis secunda (Creeping Forget-me-not), Myriophyllum spicatum (Spiked Water-milfoil) and an unidentified charophyte (a stonewort) were noted. A small amount of invasive Azolla filiculoides (Water Fern) was also seen.

In late July Carduus tenuiflorus (Slender Thistle), Torilis nodosa (Knotted Hedge-parsley) and Crambe maritima (Sea-kale) were recorded by South Bay on the outer Ards peninsula. Oenothera biennis (Common Evening-primrose) was found at Ballyquintin Point, a first record for Co. Down. Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) was recorded at the latter site in 2009, but was not found on this occasion, possibly due to encroachment by brambles and long grass.

In early August Ruppia maritima (Beaked Tasselweed) and Parapholis strigosa (Hard-grass) (a truly inconspicuous species!) were seen at Templecowey saltmarsh.

Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) was searched for at Whitespots Country Park near Conlig in early August. This was last recorded in 2007, but was not found on this occasion, probably due to extensive damage by motorcycles to this geological ASSI. However, Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine) and Mentha arvensis (Corn Mint) were seen.

In August, the slopes of Finlieve, Shanlieve and Shanlough in the south western Mourne Mountains were walked, primarily to search for Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge), last seen in 2002 and not re-found on this occasion. Shanlough was very dry, and it was possible to walk on much of the deep sphagnum without safety concerns. This was probably due to extensive dry periods in early summer, and may account for the apparent absence of the sedge.

Jake Dalzell sent notable records from the derelict site of the Sirocco Works in Belfast in late August; Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort), Laphangium luteoalbum (Jersey Cudweed), Melilotus albus (White Melilot), M. officinalis (Ribbed Melilot), Senecio inaequidens  (Narrow-leaved Ragwort) and a first for Co. Down, Ervum tetraspermum (Smooth Tare) .

Most of the rest of the recording season was spent looking at Salicornia (Glasswort) species around the east of Strangford Lough. S. ramosissima (Purple Glasswort) seems almost ubiquitous and is locally abundant. S. europaea (Common Glasswort), S. dolichostachya (Long-spiked Glasswort) and S. fragilis (Yellow Glasswort) were also found. I would like to thank Paul Green for his assistance with identifications of these and in particular for noticing amongst some of my photos, S. emerici (Shiny Glasswort), a first record for Co. Down.

Co. Down Botanical Sites

County Down has many places that are worth visiting to record plants and the Site List (available to download as a spreadsheet ) is intended to encourage recording within the county. The list is not exhaustive and there will be places that are well worth adding. If you know of somewhere that I have overlooked, please let me know.

Note that Northern Ireland does not have many public rights of way and access may need permission from the landowner.

Rare Plant Register

The Flora of County Down

This is a new project, beginning in 2010, for 10 seasons, to record the flora of County Down for a proposed publication. A new date class will be used, Date Class 5 (2010-2019), as initiated by the BSBI. This would essentially require that there be new complete coverage of the county. Species will be recorded to 1 km or better, with mapping to 2 km squares.

The current status of records held on the database Recorder for County Down is:

Total vascular plant records for County Down: 237, 487

  • Date class 1: pre-1970:       6,411
  • Date class 2: 1970-1986:   17,520
  • Date class 3: 1987-1999: 105,397
  • Date class 4: 2000-2009:   71,754
  • Date class 5: 2010-2019:   36,405

No. of taxa: 1,872 [all status]

Guidance for participants at field meetings is available here.